By Ryan Lewallen, County 17
A Campbell County judge ruled Friday afternoon to dismiss a felony charge for Keasha Bullinger, 28, the mother of an allegedly abused 4-month-old infant that suffered 31 broken bones.
Circuit Court Judge Wendy Bartlett, of the Sixth Judicial District, said, as part of her ruling, that the State of Wyoming had not satisfied its burden of proof for an allegation claiming that Bullinger had taken steps to disrupt the pursuit of justice in a felony child abuse investigation into the alleged actions of Tyler Martinson, 28 (County 17, Jan. 5).
Campbell County Attorney Mitch Damsky argued that Bullinger had coached her oldest son in preparation of a forensic interview in Rapid City, South Dakota, instructing him on what to say and how to respond to questions that could be asked regarding the potential abuse of her then 3-month-old son.
Gillette Police Department (GPD) Detective Eric Small, lead investigator in the case against Martinson, told the court that Bullinger’s son was withdrawn and guarded during the forensic interview, informing investigators that his mother had told him that Martinson didn’t hurt the infant “that bad” and that babies’ bones break easy.
Those statements are clear indications that Bullinger had prepared her 8-year-old son for the interview, according to Damsky.
“Those were not the words of an 8-year-old child,” Damsky said about video footage of the forensic interview.
Attorney Christina Williams, representing Bullinger, argued that the prosecution’s arguments lacked clear evidence that the alleged offense occurred and were based largely on speculation.
“You’re just guessing that this happened, you can’t say for sure,” Williams told Small, dismissing the detective’s assertions that video evidence clearly showed Bullinger’s son was prepped for the interview.
She noted that Bullinger’s son had given no indication that he had been specifically prepared for questions that could be asked during the interview.
Williams further stated that the prosecution’s arguments against Bullinger didn’t match the definitions of the state statute she was charged under.
Wyoming Statute § 6-5-202 states that a person is an accessory after the fact if, with intent to hinder, delay or prevent the discovery, detection, apprehension, prosecution, detention, conviction, or punishment of another for the commission of a crime, he renders assistance to the person.
Bullinger did not force her son, intimidate her son, or deceive her son into doing anything, Williams said, further noting the state’s inability to point out specific questions that Bullinger’s son had been prepared for.
“It’s just speculation, your honor, it’s not supported by evidence or probable cause,” Williams said.
Bartlett agreed with the defense and dismissed the felony charge against Bullinger but added that other misdemeanor charges related to the child abuse case still need to be addressed.
Bullinger remains charged with seven counts of child endangerment for allegedly knowing about, and failing to act, on a string of abuse allegedly inflicted on her infant son by Martinson, who was arrested on 31 counts of felony aggravated child abuse Jan. 4 (County 17, Jan. 26).
Affidavits of probable cause filed in the case state that Bullinger, accompanied by Martinson, took her infant son to the emergency room at Campbell County Memorial Hospital on Jan. 2.
The infant was screaming, inconsolable, and his ribs popped and cracked with each breath, court documents say, which also note that his right leg was splayed to the side and not moving.
Medical examinations revealed the infant had suffered 26 separate fractures to his ribs and five fractures to his legs, the worst of which was a fracture to his right femur.
Small added during Bullinger’s preliminary hearing Feb. 26 that the baby also had three compression fractures, one in his neck and two in his back, according to additional medical examinations carried out in Denver, Colorado.
“I might have been a little rough,” Martinson allegedly informed investigators Jan. 2, according to court documents, saying that he did not know how to pick up or handle an infant and believed he had injured the infant several times in the last three months.
Bullinger is believed to have known about Martinson’s actions; on one occasion she walked in a room while Martinson had been changing the infant’s diaper to find her infant son bleeding from his nose and mouth, according to court documents.
On other occasions, Bullinger noted that Martinson had allegedly been showing signs of resentment towards his son and had been picking him up so abruptly that the infant would scream in pain, according to court documents.
Williams stated Feb. 26 that Bullinger had not been idle regarding the abuse; she had sought medical attention for the infant on several occasions and had collaborated with Martinson’s parents to put their son in counseling.
Several times, she told investigators, Bullinger would “get up in Martinson’s face about it,” court documents state.
But despite knowing of the danger Martinson posed to her infant son, court documents say, Bullinger repeatedly left the baby in his charge.
When asked what it would have taken for her to do something about the abuse, Bullinger allegedly told investigators that the baby would have to be screaming in pain, according to the affidavit.
Bullinger was arrested on the charges Jan. 25 but has since posted bail and has been released from the Campbell County Detention Center.
Bartlett ordered that a criminal case be scheduled for a ruling on the child endangerment charges against Bullinger.