Nursery Crimes

The case of the battered Avondale quadruplets includes horrific injuries, a misdiagnosis, a mystery witness, a mentally ill mother, a crude police report, missions of mercy rebuffed. Expect it all to get sorted out in a criminal court.

"Mr. Perez related that he described Anthony as [having] been 'spoiled' at the hospital, because he was double the size before he was admitted. . . . Mr. Perez said that he noticed that Anthony's head was bigger when they brought him home [April 3]. . . . Mr. Perez thought Anthony had been spoiled by hospital staff. . . ."

After the interview ended, police allowed Perez to rejoin Whittle.
"The two appeared to be talking to each other," Shore's report says, "and did not appear to be in a hurry to go see their son."

Shore left the hospital about 4 a.m. to return to the Avondale station. Within a half-hour, he got a call from the hospital. A nurse said Susan Johnson (a pseudonym), whose son was a patient at the hospital, had just overheard a disturbing conversation.

From the Avondale report:
"Ms. [Johnson] said she thought the female was talking on the telephone and she overheard the female saying, 'They're treating me like a bad guy.' Ms. [Johnson] advised she thought the female was talking to her mother or grandmother. . . .

"Ms. [Johnson] advised that she could hear the telephone being hung up and the female talking with an unknown male. The female said, 'I think I shook him to[o] hard this time. I may have broken his back."

Johnson immediately reported this information to the nurse. The only couple in the vicinity, according to the Avondale report, were Whittle and Perez. Johnson later told investigators she'd gotten a brief look at the female, who fit Whittle's description.

Later on the morning of April 6, Shore and CPS caseworker Vega drove to the Whittle/Perez apartment, where they spoke with Anita Whittle. The quads' grandmother agreed to take the remaining three quads to her home until things calmed down.

On April 8, a social worker and a nurse went to Anita Whittle's residence to check on the quads' welfare, and to tell her that Anthony's three siblings had checkups scheduled at St. Joseph's Hospital the following day.

The Avondale police report says Anita Whittle told the women "that she taught Ms. [Elizabeth] Whittle that excepting [sic] help is a sign of weakness, and that she had to be tough."

On April 9, doctors at St. Joe's confirmed that all of the Perez quads had been battered beyond belief.

Since April, news outlets have chronicled how CPS took custody of all four quads and put them in medically equipped foster homes after they were well enough to leave the hospitals.

(Whittle's 6-year-old daughter, Ericka, who has Down syndrome, has been living with her grandmother.)

Whittle and Perez have been allowed supervised, hourlong weekly visits with the quads at CPS offices. A CPS report indicates that, during a May 6 supervised visit, Elizabeth Whittle cooed to baby Megan, "You'll be back with Momma soon."

A week later, CPS officials notified Juvenile Court, "The current case plan is reunification with parents. Because there is an ongoing criminal investigation in this case, a specific target date has not yet been set."

On that legal front, Juvenile Court hearings are scheduled for mid-October to determine if the quads should remain wards of the state or be reunited with their parents.

Talk of reunification appalls pediatric neurosurgeon Hal Rekate, who treated Anthony's fellow quads after they were admitted to St. Joseph's Hospital on April 9.

"Unless the perpetrator of the injury to these children can be identified and removed from this household," Dr. Rekate wrote in an April 23 to-whom-it-may-concern letter, "I strongly believe that there is no way that any of these children can be safely returned to that environment."

Actually, any likelihood of the quads' reunification with Whittle and Perez seems remote, in light of previously unpublicized information gleaned from the Avondale police report.

And the chance that Whittle might have yet more children is slim. Hospital records indicate she had her tubes tied after the birth of the quads.

Contact Paul Rubin at his online address: prubin@newtimes.com

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