by Health Impact News/MedicalKidnap.com Staff
On August 15, 2013, in Jonesborough, Tennessee, Joe Whitaker frantically spoke to 911 as he tried to save his seven month old son, Jaden. According to Joe, the ambulance raced into their driveway. A female Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) jumped out, grabbed Jaden from his arms, slammed the ambulance doors, and sped away. Joe stood in the driveway watching the ambulance pull away, confused with the events that just occurred. What happened? Where were they taking his son? Why did they leave without him?
Seconds later, Charlotte Whitaker reached her house and saw Joe standing in the driveway; her heart jumped into her throat. Where was her son? Luckily, the second rescue truck was still in front of her house, and the driver told the terrified parents that their son was being taken to Johnson City Medical Center (JCMC) in Johnson City, Tennessee. Why would the ambulance leave the parents in the driveway?
According to Charlotte, this is one of many incidences that would be twisted by CPS to aid them in falsely accusing the Whitakers of child abuse and taking their baby. This question became “Why didn’t Joe Whitaker get into the ambulance with his son?” rather than “Why did the rescue personnel leave the parents behind?” Is this normal procedure when 911 is contacted for an emergency with a child?
Nine-Year-Olds Left for School One Morning, and Have Not Been Allowed Home Since
Joe and Charlotte Whitaker had just moved to a new home in Jonesborough, Tennessee, with their family of five on August 14, 2013. They had three children between them, Cameron, Joe’s son from a previous marriage, and Lexy (Alexis), Charlotte’s daughter from a previous marriage, who were both 9 years old, and baby Jaden, who was 7 ½ months old, born on December 27, 2012. Before Jaden was born, Joe and Charlotte made the decision for Joe to be a stay-at-home parent. The older children were very active in sports and school activities, and their son, Jaden, would require lots of attention.
On that fateful day of August 15, 2013, the Whitaker family was busy as usual. Joe began unpacking the family’s belongings as Charlotte got ready for work and fed Jaden. Cameron and Lexy left for school, not realizing that they would never be allowed to go home again.
The time was 12:43 pm when Charlotte received a phone call at work that would set in motion a chain of events leading the Whitaker family into a never-ending nightmare, changing their lives forever. Charlotte recalls the call from her husband Joe as if it were yesterday:
As soon as I heard his [Joe’s] voice, I picked up my purse and ran towards the door while he frantically told me that Jaden’s arm was twisted and he wasn’t breathing right.
Heartbroken Father Not Allowed to See His Son in the Emergency Room
Joe and Charlotte rushed to JCMC, which was approximately 20 minutes from their new home. Charlotte states:
We ran into the E.R. and said our son was just brought in, where is our son? Please, where is our son?
The medical staff told her that the doctors were working on their son, and led the family to a private family waiting room. As family, friends, and their pastor crowded into the hospital room to wait for news of Jaden, a hospital chaplain was sent in to speak with them. Charlotte remembers the chaplain telling her that someone would be out to give them an update shortly.
When the chaplain opened the waiting room door to leave, Charlotte saw four or five police officers standing in the hallway. During all of this confusion of people in and out of the room, Charlotte and Joe remember hearing a nurse state the words, “child abuse.” Charlotte and Joe just looked at each other in bewilderment. Suddenly, a hospital employee entered the room and told Charlotte that she and Joe’s mother, Kathy Miller, would be allowed to see Jaden.
Joe was completely distraught that something was wrong with his baby and wanted to be there to love and comfort him, just like any normal parent. Joe asked, heartbroken,
“Why can’t I see my son?”
“Our family and friends did not understand why Joe was being kept away from his son, it didn’t make sense.”
Joe pleaded for hours to be able to see his son. According to hospital staff, Joe was not allowed to see his son because he was the last adult to be with Jaden. Joe remained in the waiting room and answered a few questions from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. Charlotte and Kathy were led to Jaden’s room. Although the Whitakers were incredibly upset by this, Charlotte states that, at that moment in time, their only concern was for Jaden. They were sure that any misunderstandings or false information would be cleared up shortly.
Mother Not Allowed to Go with Her Baby on Medical Helicopter
Charlotte followed the nurse to her son’s hospital room. She was overcome with grief when she saw her small baby lying in a “big person bed” hooked up to an IV, with a breathing tube down his little throat. Charlotte recalls five or six hospital personnel bustling around Jaden’s bed, yet not one person acknowledged that she was in the room. A woman in plain clothing entered the room with a camera, began taking pictures of Jaden and in a very accusatory manner, she asked Charlotte:
“Do you have any other children? Where are they? Because something terrible has happened to this child and we need to know where the other children are now.”
Charlotte was taken aback by the implications of what this stranger was saying to her. Charlotte would later find out that this woman was Sarah Powell, a Washington County Child Protective Services (CPS) investigator. To Charlotte’s dismay, the hospital staff treated them like criminals from the moment they walked in the hospital doors.
After what felt like hours, the treating physician finally acknowledged Charlotte’s presence and said that Jaden was going to be transported to The University of Tennessee Medical Center (UTMC) in Knoxville, Tennessee, to be seen by a pediatric neurologist. Charlotte pleaded with the doctors to allow her to accompany her baby on the medical transport helicopter, but she was denied the right to be with her critically ill baby. Charlotte would later find out that it was a Washington County Sheriff’s Office Deputy pulling the strings behind the scene at the hospital.
Charlotte watched as the medical staff readied her baby for transport and begged the transport personnel,
“Please take care of my baby.”
The leader of the transport team sympathetically assured her, “I will take care of your son, Ma’am.” Charlotte remembers this being the only human being involved with her son’s care at JCMC who treated her with the kindness one would expect towards a parent with a baby in critical condition.
Accused of Shaken Baby Syndrome
Initially, the E.R. treating physician, Dr. Melinda Lucas, diagnosed Jaden with head trauma of unknown etiology, but by the time Jaden was discharged from JCMC, the diagnosis had changed to Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) and severe, traumatic brain injury.
Charlotte was so stunned by what the doctor was saying, it didn’t seem real.
Her mind was racing, trying to recall any possible minor injuries that had occurred in the last week while Jaden was learning to crawl and becoming very mobile. Charlotte stated that Jaden had just begun to pull himself up to standing position by holding onto objects, and he was very active crawling around. Charlotte told Dr. Lucas that Jaden had two minor falls recently. One fall was at her parent’s home where Jaden fell off of the couch, and the second was a fall from their son Cameron’s bed.
The doctor was very adamant that this injury could not have been from either of these incidents. Charlotte and Joe were at a loss about what was wrong with their son, and it didn’t seem as if the doctors were trying to figure it out. Joe and Charlotte asked the doctors to check for other health reasons for Jaden’s condition. Certain medical conditions could easily account for simple falls causing the injury. To date, this testing has never happened. An expert who reviewed the case has since told the family that the doctors have put Jaden at risk by refusing to test for suspected medical disorders.
Parents Coerced Into Signing Paperwork – Constitutional Rights Denied
Out of the corner of her eye, Charlotte noticed a man leaning against the hallway wall outside of Jaden’s hospital room. He was staring at her so intensely that she felt very uncomfortable. The man introduced himself as Deputy Jared Taylor with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. From the beginning, Deputy Taylor tried to convince Charlotte that her husband Joe had hurt her son.
It was Taylor who had denied Charlotte and Joe their parental right to be with their son at the hospital and in the transport helicopter. Taylor reportedly implied that the Whitakers could not be with Jaden unless they first consented to formal questioning at the sheriff’s office.
They did not know that they had a choice and were not advised of any of their rights, including Miranda. Charlotte remembers Taylor demanding that the Whitakers sign paperwork. Joe and Charlotte knew they had not done anything wrong and were simply trying desperately to see their son. She recalls signing papers, but she is not sure what the paperwork was about. They believe that Deputy Taylor took advantage of their confusion in time of grief and their desperation to be with their son.
They arrived at the sheriff’s office at 7:00 pm. Charlotte was led to a waiting room and, to her surprise and dismay, was locked in. Taylor left her in this room, unable to use the restroom or get food and water for two hours.
Taylor demanded that both Joe and Charlotte take a voice analysis, and again, they complied, not knowing they had a choice. They were determined to do whatever it took to be with Jaden when he needed them the most. Charlotte could not stop thinking about Jaden lying in a hospital room sick and alone. Taylor kept Joe and Charlotte separate at all times during questioning, and they reportedly cooperated fully.
Taylor allegedly lied and stated that Joe did not pass his voice analysis. According to Charlotte, the truth is that Taylor made Joe take the voice analysis several times attempting to change the final outcome that has shown that he has been honest from the beginning.
Unlike the two hours of Joe’s questioning, Charlotte’s lasted approximately 10 minutes, after which Taylor finally told her that she could go be with her son. Once Charlotte walked outside into the parking lot, she saw another man shaking Joe’s hand and apologizing. She also saw DCS Investigator, Sarah Powell, in the parking lot and realized that Powell had watched the entire interview behind the glass in the interrogation room. Powell apologized to Charlotte, telling her that they passed their voice analysis and did great in the interview. She continued that she was obligated to interview their other children, Lexy and Cameron.
At this time, Joe and Charlotte were led to believe that the investigation was over and they could now spend their time and energy on helping Jaden. Unfortunately for the Whitakers, this was far from the truth.
Unwelcome in the Ronald McDonald House
Finally, at approximately 9:00 pm, they were allowed to leave the sheriff’s office to make the two hour drive to UTMC in Knoxville. When they arrived, they were both allowed to be with Jaden in the pediatric ICU. Jaden was completely sedated. Charlotte noticed that the hospital staff had put a neck brace on Jaden, even though the CT scan showed that there were no neck injuries. Joe and Charlotte were exhausted and had not eaten all day. The hospital staff informed Charlotte that they usually let the family stay in the Ronald McDonald House, but the Whitaker’s would not be welcome there. Instead, they slept in the waiting room.
According to Charlotte, early in the morning on August 16, at approximately 4:00 am, a doctor told them there was minimal swelling in Jaden’s head and things looked very positive.
Child Abuse Specialist Dr. Mary Palmer Assumes Abuse, Refuses to Look Further
Later that day, Dr. Mary Palmer, Child Abuse Specialist, walked into the room, straight to Jaden’s bedside and began to talk as if the Whitakers were not in the room. According to Joe, Palmer said to Jaden as she took photographs:
Oh, the trauma you have experienced Jaden, if you could only tell me what happened.
Dr. Palmer began accusing and tersely questioning Joe about what occurred on August 15 prior to the 911 call. Charlotte said that Dr. Palmer began to argue with Joe regarding how many times he fed his son the day before. Joe and Charlotte were exhausted and hungry at this time and just wanted to love on their child. According to Charlotte, Dr. Mary Palmer jumped to conclusions prior to any medical investigation of Jaden’s past and present health conditions. This is consistent with what other parents are reporting to us about the new pediatric sub-specialty of Child Abuse Specialists.
Child Abuse Specialists are gaining a lot of negative attention due to the increase in medical kidnappings. According to a recent article in Health Impact News, the new pediatric sub-specialty appears to correlate with the recent epidemic of medical kidnappings.
The rise in aggressive uses of CPS by doctors and hospitals in diagnosing “child abuse,” extensively documented by MedicalKidnap.com appears to parallel several new developments in the world of pediatric medicine. In 2010, the American Academy of Pediatrics certified a new sub-specialty in child abuse pediatrics, which requires a fellowship with a teaching hospital’s child protection unit and a separate board exam.
Jaden Taken From Charlotte’s Arms, Parents Escorted Out of Hospital
On August 17, 2013, Joe’s birthday, the Whitakers were at UTMC with Jaden. A nurse called Joe and Charlotte into Jaden’s room. Deputy Jared Taylor and DCS Investigator Sarah Powell were in the room waiting for them. According to Charlotte, Taylor took Joe for more questioning and continued to grill him privately. When the story did not change and Joe continued to tell the truth, Taylor got angry and started yelling at Sarah Powell:
Get your damn paperwork, tell them to sign this [paper] so we can get out of here!!!
He looked angrily at Charlotte and stated, “You have to sign this paper,” and shoved what she later realized was an Emergency Protective Order (EPO) at her to sign. Joe and Charlotte did not understand what an EPO was and that they did have a choice. The Whitakers were not advised that they had any rights, and no one explained it was not mandatory they sign this paperwork. Taylor and Powell told them they had no choice but to sign the order.
Powell commented to Charlotte:
I will have to ask my supervisor if you will be allowed to see your other two children.
Without any further discussion and showing no emotion, the hospital nurse took Jaden out of Charlotte’s arms. Deputy Taylor walked the Whitakers out of the hospital and away from their sick baby. Joe and Charlotte were completely crushed and heartbroken.
When Joe and Charlotte spoke to each other later about the interrogation in the hospital, Joe said, “Taylor tried to make me say that I was covering for our daughter, Lexy, who had dropped Jaden.” Joe continued to tell Taylor that no one hurt or dropped Jaden. According to Joe, after over an hour of Taylor trying to manipulate the details of August 15, he became very angry and began ranting and raving in the hospital.
Sarah Powell interrogated Charlotte at the same time and according to Charlotte, Powell was attempting to tell Charlotte that her husband hurt their baby.
The Whitakers report that Taylor and Powell became angry because neither of the parents wavered from the truth. Taylor and Powell were attempting to turn the Whitakers against each other, but, according to the Whitakers’ testimony, no matter how long they were interrogated or how much Taylor yelled, the truth was never going to change.
Joe’s lawyer, Christina Stapleton, contacted Washington County DCS Office by phone. According to Charlotte, Ms. Stapleton said,
“I am here with Mr. and Mrs. Whitaker, and I understand they were escorted from the hospital without an order signed by a judge, is that correct?”
The DCS supervisor told the lawyer that Charlotte only, could go back to the hospital, but her husband was not allowed to be with Jaden. Charlotte went back on August 19, 2013. On August 22 the Whitakers were called in to the Washington County Department of Child Services (DCS) for a Child and Family Team Meeting. According to DCS, the purpose of this meeting was to discuss the family story, prevention ideas, placement options, and family resources. According to Charlotte, DCS held the Family Team Meeting in support of keeping their family together, while at the same time completing necessary paperwork to permanently take Jaden from them. DCS called again on August 23 and escorted Charlotte Whitaker from the hospital for a second time.
DCF Plans to Permanently Take Children Away from Parents
Charlotte states that the real purpose of this Family Team Meeting was to take the Whitakers’ other children, Lexy and Cameron. Charlotte shared custody of Lexy with her ex-husband, but Joe was the primary parent in Cameron’s life. DCS devastated the Whitaker children according to Charlotte.
DCS brought in the Whitakers’ ex-spouses to the family meeting and told them a shocking, one-sided, false story about how Joe and Charlotte abused Jaden. DCS decided that custody of Lexy and Cameron would be given to the other biological parents, and they would decide if and when Joe and Charlotte would have visitation with their children.
At this time, Charlotte’s parents, Sandra and Larry Shortt, requested consideration for placement of their grandchild, Jaden. Sarah Powell and her supervisor Kim Garland stated that they could fill out paperwork for potential placement of Jaden. According to Charlotte, all attempts that the Whitakers and their family made were in vain. In the end, the Shortts were devastated when DCS determined that they were not considered acceptable and would not allow Jaden to be placed with his grandparents.
Charlotte states that there was a no contact order at the end of August 2013; the Whitakers could no longer see Jaden.
Parents Arrested – Jaden Adopted by Strangers
On September 11, 2013, at midnight, Charlotte and Joe were arrested by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office for aggravated child abuse and neglect. They hired a criminal attorney to represent them in both juvenile and criminal court, which turned out to be a big mistake, because the attorney was not knowledgeable about court hearings with DCS and juvenile law.
On September 25, 2013, DCS filed a Petition to Terminate Parental Rights (TPR). According to Charlotte, there was never an adjudication, or fact-finding hearing, involving the presentation of witnesses, evidence, and arguments by counsel or the parties. Joe and Charlotte were told by their lawyers that the juvenile hearing, held December 2 to December 5, 2013, was supposed to be the adjudication hearing. When they arrived at the hearing, to their disbelief, Judge Lincoln stated that this was a TPR hearing. The judge ruled on January 24, 2014, that the Whitakers’ parental rights to their son Jaden were to be terminated.
Since that time, they have learned that their little boy has been adopted out to strangers.
Six Medical Experts Agree that Jaden Was NOT Abused and Was Misdiagnosed with Shaken Baby Syndrome
Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) is a type of inflicted traumatic brain injury that happens when a baby is violently shaken. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), a baby has weak neck muscles. Shaking the baby causes the fragile brain to bounce back and forth inside the skull leading to bruising, swelling and bleeding which in turn can cause permanent, severe brain damage or death. NINDS identifies the following primary injuries that are caused by SBS: subdural hemorrhages (bleeding in the brain), retinal hemorrhages (bleeding in the retina), damage to the spinal cord and neck, and fractures of ribs and bones. The symptoms of SBS are extreme irritability, lethargy, poor feeding, breathing problems, convulsions, and vomiting.
When Joe initially noticed that something was wrong with Jaden and contacted his wife and 911, he described Jaden’s arm being twisted awkwardly and abnormal breathing. According to Joe and Charlotte, Jaden was not suffering from lethargy, poor feeding, convulsions, or vomiting. NINDS also reports that when comparing SBS with accidental trauma, the majority of babies who suffer from SBS have long term damage, including blindness from retina damage and some form of neurological or mental disability, like cerebral palsy or cognitive impairment. Children who suffer from SBS may require lifelong medical care. This is not the case with Jaden.
Joe and Charlotte retained lawyers and requested medical experts to review Jaden’s records and provide reports and testimony to DCS. All six of the medical experts reviewed Jaden’s medical history, records and imaging and agree that Jaden did not have Shaken Baby Syndrome, nor was he abused. The medical experts agree that Jaden suffered from vitamin deficiencies and possible Rickets and medical health problems which need to be diagnosed and treated immediately. The experts agree that the hospital physicians involved with the child abuse diagnosis did not fulfill their duty as physicians according to The American Academy of Pediatrics’ position papers that require physicians to eliminate non-abusive etiologies in alleged cases of child abuse, and this was not done in Jaden Whitaker’s case.
Following are excerpts from the medical experts who reviewed Jaden’s medical information and will provide their expert testimony in court.
Pediatric Forensic Expert Says Shaken Baby Diagnosis Incorrect
Dr. Charles J. Hyman, General and Forensic Pediatrics, thoroughly reviewed Jaden’s records and films and provided a 50 page report which disputes the diagnosis of Shaken Baby Syndrome. Dr. Hyman is a board certified pediatrician with a very extensive medical background which includes Clinical Professor of Pediatrics for Loma Linda University Medical Center, founder and director of Loma Linda University Medical Center’s child abuse team, awarded the State of California Martha Lou Berkley Award for excellence in child abuse intervention and education, co-director of the Children in Crisis Center (Child Abuse) of St. Bernadine’s Medical Center in San Bernadino, and current member of the Criminal Division of the Superior Court of Los Angeles Expert Witness Panel. Dr. Hyman has conducted research for the last 12 years involving infants with bone fractures. Dr. Hyman holds memberships in a large number of organizations, including the International Society for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (ISPCAN), the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (APSAC), the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research, the International Bone and Mineral Society (IBMS), the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics on Child Abuse and Neglect, and the International Society of Bone Morphology. Following the review of Jaden Whitaker’s records, Dr. Hyman states:
It is my medical diagnosis based on the history given by the parents, the medical records, and the brain imaging that Jaden Asher Whitaker was not a victim of child abuse. Jaden’s findings, alone or in combination, are neither pathognomonic nor highly specific for child abuse. The American Academy of Pediatrics’ position papers regarding child abuse require physicians to eliminate non-abusive etiologies in alleged cases of child abuse. In my opinion, this was not done in Jaden’s case. [emphasis added] In my clinical opinion, Jaden has a disorder of mitochondria that best fits the MELAS syndrome (mitochondrial myopathy, encephalopathy, lactic acidosis, and stroke-like episodes). It is imperative for the ongoing health of the child that this clinical diagnosis be considered by a molecular geneticist with expertise in mitochondrial inborn errors of metabolism. It is suggested that whole exome sequencing that includes the mt genome is performed to bypass the terribly confusing and intermittently displayed metabolic abnormalities seen with mitochondrial disease.
No Evidence of Shaking or Neck Trauma, Which Should Be Present if It Were Shaken Baby Syndrome
Dr. Hyman continues:
Alone or in combination, the presence of Jaden’s central nervous system pathology and retinal hemorrhages are not pathognomonic of or highly specific for child abuse. There was no clear and convincing evidence of significant head impact contemporaneous with his central nervous system presentation. Importantly, the record clearly shows that there was no evidence of shaking or any other type of neck trauma; Jaden’s neck was clinically and radiographically normal. The addition of the non-acute superficial right frontal forehead bruises, alleged metaphyseal fractures, and short stature cannot confirm a diagnosis of child abuse.”
A relatively new concept repeated by the child abuse community is that a certain combination of injuries, called “constellation” of injuries, is diagnostic of and could only have been caused by abuse. In my opinion, this concept is erroneous and lacks scientific support. The facts of Jaden’s case and the scientific medical literature support that Jaden’s diagnosis of shaken baby syndrome (SBS) which is now termed “abusive head trauma” (AHT) is flawed and incorrect.
Genetics Medical Expert Says This Is Not Child Abuse; Criminal Charges “Outrageous”
Dr. Marvin Miller with Dayton Children’s Hospital Genetics Clinic was contacted to review the medical records of Jaden and determine if the symptoms from August 15 could be due to a mitochondrial disorder. Following the review of Jaden’s history, lab data, and imaging studies, Dr. Miller concludes:
- Testing for MELAS is reasonable and should be done,
- Another likely explanation for Jaden’s presentation is the 2 short falls – one 5 days and the other 10 days prior to presentation. A cortical vein thrombosis might be present,
- I note that no thrombophilia evaluation was done during the admission of Jaden – it should also be done,
- This is NOT child abuse or SBS. Proceeding with criminal proceedings against the parents is outrageous.
The Whitakers have lost their parental rights and at this time are fighting criminal charges that were brought against them. The next court hearing is December 16, 2015, to hear motions for a new attorney. The criminal Judge Lisa Rice has already thrown out the Whitakers expert Dr. Ronald Wright. The Whitakers have two medical experts left allowed to testify, Dr. Julie Mack and Dr. Charles Hyman.
Health Impact News contacted Sarah Powell at the Washington County DCS office on October 19, 2015 at 423-854-5311. When asked if she was still working as a DCS investigator, Powell stated,
“I’m actually not going to be able to give you that information myself, but I can get it to the person that is talking to you guys if you would like to go that way.”
Health Impact News inquired,
“So you cannot tell us what your job title is currently with DCS?”
“Correct. It has to go through somebody else.”
According to the receptionist for DCS, Powell has not been a DCS investigator for close to two years. Powell did state that if anyone had questions regarding the Whitaker case or how it was handled, they could contact Rob Johnson in Nashville at 615-532-5645.
Supporters are asking readers to help the Whitaker’s fight this injustice by contacting the following:
Washington County Department Child Services (DCS), Sarah Powell and Kim Garland, 103 E. Walnut Street, Johnson City, TN, phone number 423-854-5311 http://www.washingtoncountytn.org/node/184
Representative Mathew Hill represents House District 7 and may be reached at 615-741-2251 or contacted here.
Senator Rusty Crowe represents their Senate District 3. He may be reached at 615-741-2468, or contacted here.
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