Child Protective Court Associate Judge David Barkley on Friday ordered that parental visitation rights for their 6-month-old son remain unchanged for now. In doing so, Barkley denied the father’s request for visitation and the mother’s request for increased visitation.
Barkley, in September, approved a Texas Department of Family and Protective Services request that the boy remain under the department’s temporary managing conservatorship. The boy remains in the care of foster parents and is said to be doing well.
Rescue workers transported the boy to Cook Children’s Medical Center on Sept. 7. He was removed from his parent’s custody on Sept. 10 and his father, Brian Hearne, was arrested by Burleson police on a charge of injury to a child with intent bodily injury, a first-degree felony.
During Friday’s status hearing, Brandi Jones of the Texas Department of Family Services testified that the boy, who suffered significant injuries when placed in foster care, has since made substantial progress.
“The bleeding on his brain has significantly decreased,” Jones said. “They’re weaning him off of anti-seizure medications. He’s doing well with developmental milestones and recently began rolling over.”
Child Protective Services investigator Lorri Streiff, in the September affidavit in support of removal, that Hearne and the boy’s mother both admitted they were the only caregivers to the boy at the time of the incident. Both parents at the time denied harming the child.
“It was reported that Mr. Hearne was upset with [the boy’s mother] around the time [the boy] became symptomatic,” Streiff testified in September. “[The boy’s] injuries are consistent with non-accidental trauma requiring substantial violent force.
“The number of injuries and stages of healing indicate [the boy] was subjected to ongoing repeated abuse and trauma. At this time, pending further investigation by law enforcement and the department, it is unknown who caused these injuries and allowing [the boy] to remain in the care of Mr. Hearne and [the mother] puts him at risk of re-injury including death.”
A CT scan at Cook Children’s revealed acute hemorrhaging in the left frontal region of the boy’s brain along with old bleeds that were healing.
“It was reported that this is not normal for anyone with seizure activity unless they endured trauma,” according to the September indictment. “[The boy] is only 4 months old and there were no reports of accidental trauma.”
Medical workers at the time also noted bruises on the boy’s skin in linear and circular patterns and said that the parents, when questioned, could not explain the bruises or other injuries.
The parents and the boy were staying at Hearne’s father’s house in Burleson having been evicted from their Arlington apartment the week before Sept. 7. Hearne’s father was staying with his girlfriend and not home at the time of the incident.
The boy’s mother said she slept until 2 p.m. that day because the boy was up all night and would not go to sleep until 5 a.m. or 6 a.m. Once she woke up she decided to take Hearne’s car to have it cleaned and left her son asleep in a swing according to the affidavit. The mother said paramedics were at her house when she returned from the car wash.
Streiff in September testified that Hearne told her he was arrested about a year ago in Crowley for substance abuse and was using marijuana, cocaine and Xanax at the time but said the charge has been deferred adding that he has not used since the arrest and had gone through drug classes.
Streiff said Hearne did not appear surprised or upset when told the severity of his son’s injuries, according to the affidavit.
“He did not ask any questions or clarification about the injuries,” according to the affidavit. “He was advised that the injuries were likely not accidental. Mr. Hearne still did not appear bothered. He denied knowing where the bruise on [the boys] leg came from. He again stated that no one besides him and [the mother] had access to [the boy] prior to his injury.”
Streiff also talked to Hearne’s father, who confirmed that he was not present at the time.
“He stated that sometimes he or his girlfriend might hold the baby for just a few moments, but they never take care of him,” according to the affidavit. “During our conversations [Hearne’s father] appeared unconcerned about [the boy] and did not ask questions regarding his injuries or their severity.”
Testimony on Friday revealed that the mother has been cleared of and has not been charged in connection to her son’s injuries.
The boy’s mother, Jones said, has exceeded expectations and is “doing really well” in working toward regaining increased visitation and/or custody of her son with one exception. The mother tested positive for marijuana use on Oct. 28. The recommendation was to have her test clean, while continuing the other requirements of her service plan, before revisiting the question of increased visitation, a recommendation Barkley agreed with.
The mother promised to do so.
“I’m willing to do absolutely anything,” the mother said. “I cherish every moment that I have with my son.”
A home assessment study in underway to explore the possibility of placing the boy with his maternal aunt, Jones said.
Jones, when questioned by Hearne’s attorney David Houston, said it’s true that Hearne passed his drug tests since his arrest but noted that he also has a history of marijuana use.
Jones recommended that Hearne’s visitation rights remain suspended until the criminal charges against his are resolved.
Jones replied no when asked by Houston if she told Hearne that she would not consider placing the boy with one of Hearne’s relatives.
Houston asked why no home study was conducted on any of Hearne’s relatives.
“I spoke to his relatives and got information for a home assessment,” Jones said. “But, by the time I had spoken to them, we had already started the process for home assessment on the maternal aunt and typically we only do one home assessment at a time.”
Houston noted that Hearne has been indicted but not convicted of the charges against him. Jones again answered no when Houston asked if she thought the process against Hearne was “very biased,” at which point Barkley stepped in.
“I authorized the home study on the aunt,” Barkley said. “Let’s move ahead Mr. Houston.”
Testimony on Friday also showed that the foster parents are meeting the boy’s needs. Barkley scheduled another status hearing for March 8.
Hearne’s criminal charges will be addressed in the 413th District Court. No court date has been set.