Camryn Jakeb Wilson
New Year's baby's death shatters family, relationships
Fri August 15, 2008
By Jim Kavanagh
Camryn Jakeb Wilson was the first baby born this year in Summit County, Ohio, arriving at 12:33 a.m. January 1.
CUYAHOGA FALLS, Ohio (CNN) -- Camryn Jakeb Wilson was bathed in TV lights the day he was born, celebrated on the local news as Summit County's 2008 New Year's baby after his arrival at 12:33 a.m. January 1.
Just 12 weeks later, he was bathed in warm water minutes after he quietly died in his mother's arms, the victim of shaken baby syndrome. Camryn's 9-year-old sister, Tabatha, asked why he needed a bath now.
"We have to get him ready to go to Jesus," a nurse softly replied. Tabatha took up a sponge to help.
Camryn's father, Craig R. Wilson, 28, of Cuyahoga Falls, is scheduled for a pretrial hearing on murder and other charges August 20. Police say he confessed to shaking and squeezing the infant after arguing with his wife, Crystal Wilson.
But he has pleaded not guilty to all the charges and faces trial in September.
"There are no excuses for this to happen to any baby," said Crystal Wilson, 26. "This is murder. He had no reason to die. He died because he cried."
An innocent infant's violent death has destroyed a family.
Watch the family celebrate Camryn's birth »
"It really is a tragedy," said Craig Wilson's defense attorney, Jonathan T. Sinn. "I mean, not only did Crystal and Craig lose a son, but Crystal lost a husband, and Craig's parents lost a son and a grandson. ... One day this was a happy, perfect family, and the next day it's been devastated."
The National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome estimates that as many as 1,400 babies annually are injured or killed by shaking.
According to the center, 70 percent to 79 percent of people convicted of killing or hurting babies are men. The average age of perpetrators is 24, and 82 percent are either the parent of the victim or the live-in boyfriend of the mother.
Watch CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta explain shaken baby syndrome »
Craig Wilson and Crystal Twiddy, both recovering alcoholics, met about four years ago in a softball league popular with Alcoholics Anonymous members. The couple beamed in engagement photos shot in a garden setting before they were married in September. It was the first marriage for both.
See photos of the family »
Craig, the machinist son of the Cuyahoga Falls High School wrestling coach and a former Mat Cats wrestler himself, became a father figure to Tabatha, Crystal's daughter from a previous relationship.
The newlyweds also became frequent caretakers to 1-year-old Corrine, a daughter Craig had with another woman. Family members said the couple's only source of conflict was Craig's interaction with Corrine's mother.
On March 12, the topic sparked a heated quarrel, according to a police report and family accounts. The couple hurled their wedding rings, along with profane insults, at each other. Crystal left with Tabatha to attend one of her regular AA meetings, leaving baby Camryn in the care of his father.
"Maybe they both could have used a meeting that night," Sinn observed.
When Crystal and Tabatha got home from the meeting March 12, Crystal immediately noticed that Camryn didn't look right in his baby swing. He was gasping for air but couldn't be wakened. After briefly speaking with an on-call doctor at Akron Children's Hospital, she scooped him up and rushed him there.
Camryn was critically injured, with bleeding inside his head and in the backs of his eyes, and several broken ribs -- some of which, according to the autopsy, turned out to be older injuries. Medical personnel at the hospital determined that the combination of injuries could only mean abuse.
When rib fractures are seen in a 10-week-old infant, "it's beating up," said Dr. Nicolas Krawiecki, a pediatric neurologist and faculty member at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia. He is not involved in the Wilson case.
Watch a doctor describe typical symptoms »
Craig Wilson was summoned to the hospital, where police questioned both parents separately. Early on March 13, the 5-foot-7-inch, 190-pound father was arrested after admitting that he had shaken and squeezed his baby out of frustration and anger toward his wife resulting from the argument over Corrine's mother, according to the police investigators' report.
The bleeding inside Camryn's head was catastrophic. The two sides of his brain were "like two telephone poles with the lines between them cut," a family member said a doctor told them. Camryn was blind and incapable of feeling someone touching him, he could not breathe on his own, and if he lived, he would never be aware of his surroundings or even be capable of thinking, family members said.
Learn about shaken baby syndrome »
After almost two weeks of waiting for a miracle that would never come, Crystal Wilson decided to withdraw life support. She gave friends and family -- including everyone on Craig's side -- time to gather to say goodbye to the tiny boy with the big, sightless eyes. Various relatives took turns holding him as he gradually slipped away.
"They pulled together; they prayed together; they took baby Camryn off life support together," said Sinn, the Wilson family's longtime lawyer. "And that was a wonderful thing, that they were able to pull together like that despite Craig being alleged to have done these things."
Camryn's father was not among them as he remained in jail. Sheriff's deputies took Craig Wilson to the funeral home for a brief private viewing of the infant's body the night before the funeral.
But the family unity would not last. Buried with Camryn were multiple relationships that could not survive the grief, recrimination and legal machinations that have followed his death.
Watch how Camryn's death has ruined relationships »
Crystal Wilson intends to divorce her husband of 11 months and is at odds with her in-laws.
"My anger is kicked in full load," she wrote on her private MySpace page.
"I don't care what Craig's family members think. He did this to my son.
May he get what he deserves! Maybe people should talk more about Camryn than Craig. Craig's name has no worth to even be mentioned."
Through their attorney, Wilson and his family declined to comment to CNN.
Sinn said the autopsy on Camryn raises questions about whether Craig Wilson or someone else might have injured the infant on previous occasions.
The autopsy report, obtained by CNN, found Camryn had multiple rib fractures, including several that apparently were incurred on one or more previous occasions.
"The question becomes: If that autopsy is accurate, if this child has been severely injured to the point that his ribs were fractured on prior occasions, multiple occasions, how come no one knew that?" Sinn said.
If Camryn's caregivers didn't pick up on his earlier rib fractures, neither did medical personnel trained to look for signs of child abuse. Camryn had been to Children's Hospital several times during his short life -- including earlier on the day he was fatally injured -- for well-baby checks and immunizations. No doctor or nurse ever noted broken ribs or signs of unusual pain in the infant, family members said.
Watch how to avoid hurting a baby »
Cuyahoga Falls police have said there are no suspects besides Craig Wilson, and Summit County Children Services removes children immediately from a home investigators consider dangerous. Crystal Wilson's other child, 9-year-old Tabatha, is still at home with her mother.
Sinn conceded that his client belatedly admitted to police having squeezed Camryn on previous occasions.
"He only made the confession after the detectives involved started talking about other possibilities of how this child could have been injured, what other folks in the household could have injured him. Then Craig quickly took responsibility," Sinn said.
Sinn said his client would accept "today" an offer to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter, saying Craig Wilson had no intention to kill Camryn that night, making a murder charge inappropriate. But prosecutors say there will be no deal.
"No matter what happens, Craig is going to very likely spend the majority of his adult life in prison," Sinn conceded. "We are talking massive numbers here."
John Saros, executive director of Summit County Children Services, said crime within a family can bring long-lasting hardship, especially when a family member goes to prison.
"If that's the breadwinner or the main breadwinner, then you've got some serious financial problems right off the bat," he said.
Crystal and Tabatha can attest to that. They can no longer afford to live in the charming little house they once shared with Craig on a peaceful Cuyahoga Falls street.
Watch how bad things happen in good families »
"I lost my job because of this, because I couldn't work enough hours. Now I have to move into a smaller place," Crystal said. "It's horrible. It's a whole life change."
And the consequences in such circumstances extend beyond the immediate family, Saros said.
"It will be the basis for divorces; it'll be the basis for the kind of family conflict that then brings into play maternal and paternal grandparents and the extended family on both sides, and we end up with a lot of conflict," said Saros, who has been in the family services field for 40 years.
Crystal Wilson's mother -- Camryn's grandmother, Laura Twiddy -- is angry at Craig but is trying to keep perspective.
"I can't have HATE eat me up and beat me down. I can't live like that," she wrote on her MySpace page. "I will have to one day forgive him so that I might find peace."
Peace of a sort can be found near the back of Stow Cemetery, where birds chirp in the trees above a freshly carved marker bearing a photograph of a big-eyed baby boy.
The plot where Camryn now lies beneath that stone was donated to Crystal Wilson by a kind relative: Janet Wilson, Camryn's great-grandmother.
On his father's side.
Crystal and Craig Wilson beamed in their engagement photo in June 2007 and were married in September.
Camryn's brain, eyes and ribs were severely injured when someone violently shook him. He died March 25.
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