What happened to baby Faith Mason?
UPDATE: Baby Faith's parents were arrested on charges of injury to a child Sept. 27, 2013: http://theexaminer.com/stories/news/baby-faiths-parents-arrested
A horrendous case of suspected child abuse in Port Arthur has residents of Southeast Texas wondering what happened to 1-month-old baby Faith Mason.
The Examiner’s investigation has revealed a family with a history of child neglect and possible drug abuse. Port Arthur police are still investigating the case and have not named a suspect, but justice may soon be at hand.
The full extent of baby Faith’s injuries are appalling.
According to Port Arthur police, the infant suffered from life-threatening injuries “indicative of abuse,” and she was admitted to St. Mary’s Hospital at 3600 Gates Blvd. in Port Arthur at approximately 12:13 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 18.
“We received a call early, early Sunday morning that a 1-month-old baby girl had presented at the hospital with severe physical abuse,” said Shari Pulliam, Beaumont’s CPS spokesperson.
She said Faith suffered from two broken arms, two broken legs, a broken neck, a dislocated shoulder and a black eye. Pulliam said after doctors discovered blunt force trauma to the head that caused a “severe brain bleed,” Faith was flown to Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston where her injuries were confirmed.
“After a thorough examination, it was determined she had 19 fractures, new and old,” Pulliam said. “This child had been severely physically abused before the incident when she went to the hospital. We immediately took custody.”
Baby Faith is listed in critical condition at Texas Children’s Hospital, but the severity of her head trauma has yet to be determined.
“She is expected to survive, but we do not know what her quality of life will be at this point,” Pulliam explained. “She has been put in a full-body cast. They are watching her very, very closely and running tests trying to see what they can.”
When asked what type of abuse could have caused such severe injuries, Pulliam replied, “Blunt force trauma, punching, slapping, hitting. We are not sure exactly what happened. We are working with law enforcement to try to piece together what happened in this little child’s four weeks of life to cause these injuries. We just don’t know.”
Baby Faith’s parents are 20-year-old Christine Johnson and 17-year-old Darrell Mason, both of Port Arthur. The Examiner was unable to reach either for comment regarding their baby.
Pulliam said she often sees young parents successfully caring for babies with help from their loved ones.
“The mom just turned 20 (Monday, Aug 19). The dad is 17. We see a lot of young parents who have babies who have a good family base to help them. That is where this must have failed because where was the support when you have a young mother with a 1-month-old?”
When Faith is released from the hospital, Pulliam said the child will go into foster care. Foster parents must be able to meet Faith’s medical needs, which could prove a challenge depending on the success of the infant’s recovery.
“She will go into a foster home that can meet all of her medical needs. She is getting the best possible medical care she can at Texas Children’s. This case has touched all of us here locally and the doctors and social workers in Houston. Everybody is owning this case as their own, and we want to make sure that this child gets everything she possibly can to heal.”
Pulliam doubts baby Faith will be returned to her parents or any family members due to the severe abuse she suffered, regardless of how the abuse was sustained. Even if the parents are not charged with injury to a child, they could both face neglectful supervision charges for leaving Faith in an unsafe environment.
“That will be decided by a judge, but I don’t think so. When you see a severe physical abuse case like this, rarely do they return home or to a family member. Of course, if one comes forward that is appropriate that has no CPS history or criminal history, of course we would look at them for placement. The judge would have the final decision. We think the safest place for this child is in foster care.”
Pulliam said police investigators would have to determine who is responsible for the abuse and file charges accordingly.
“We protected the child, and we are getting her the best medical treatment we can. The rest is up to law enforcement. Law enforcement is doing a good job,” Pulliam said.
According to sources close to the investigation, PAPD is investigating the case and is expected to file charges in the coming weeks once all of the information and evidence are pieced together. The sources said investigators are meeting Thursday morning, Aug. 22, with Jefferson County prosecutors who are eager to try and convict a suspect in the case once the evidence is gathered.
“Charges will be filed,” said PAPD Major Raymond Clark, who went on to confirm he is meeting with Jefferson County’s district attorney Thursday to talk about forensic evidence gathered by the doctors who treated Faith and to ensure “justice prevails in this case.”
Clark also confirmed the suspect or suspects implicated in the abuse are family members of baby Faith but PAPD is not releasing any names at this time.
Linda Fields, the mother’s aunt, said reports the baby and parents were staying with her at her apartment at Lakeview Palms in Port Arthur are untrue.
“No, she was staying with her aunt who raised her,” Fields said. “They just came for the weekend.”
When asked if she noticed anything strange or if the baby was crying, she replied, “I didn’t really notice anything except that her arm was swollen.”
Fields went on to say baby Faith stayed with Fields’ cousin, and the cousin’s children were seen picking up the baby. “I think they bruised the baby’s bones by them picking up and changing the baby,” she said. “They think babies are baby dolls.”
When asked if she thought her niece Johnson — the child’s mother — could have harmed the baby or could have known how the infant was injured, she said, “No. She is really protective of her baby. Christine was taken from her mother as a little baby.”
She said she thinks it is possible that the baby has brittle bone disease or some similar medical condition that could explain why she had numerous fractures all over her body.
Pulliam is not convinced.
“I am sure Texas Children’s (Hospital) knows what abuse looks like and knows what brittle bone disease looks like,” she said. “We have not been told anything about brittle bone disease. That has not come up at all.”
Pulliam confirmed that Linda Fields herself has a history with CPS.
“She has significant CPS history,” Pulliam said. “We’ve removed five children from her. Her rights were terminated due to neglectful supervision.”
None of the five children removed from Fields’ custody suffered from injuries similar to baby Faith’s.
When asked if Christine Johnson was taken from her mother as a baby as Linda Fields asserted, Pulliam said, “Yes. She was removed from her mother as an infant, and she was placed into foster care. She was raised by another family member, on the paternal side, and we never received any further complaints about Christine’s care.”
The aunt in question, with whom Linda Fields said Johnson and her baby lived just prior to the abuse investigation, has passed away, and Pulliam said she was told Johnson lived with Fields for a few weeks prior to the discovery of the baby’s injuries.
A male neighbor of Fields’ at the Lakeview Palms apartments who refused to be identified said he is outraged by what happened.
“Every last one of them in that home needs to be locked up,” the man said. He confirmed Johnson and baby Faith lived in the apartment with Fields for months, and he said he’d also seen Mason, the baby’s father, around the complex.
When asked if he knew Mason, the man accused him of being addicted to “dip” or embalming fluid.
He said other neighbors spoke to him about the possible abuse but will not come forward for fear of reprisal.
“She won’t tell you this, but their next door neighbor said she heard that baby hollering all night long,” he said. “All night long.”
Sources close to the investigation say baby Faith’s father, Mason, is well-known to Port Arthur police for a myriad of drug offenses, but his juvenile records remain sealed.
In a comment on Facebook on Aug. 14, Mason posted, “Tht (sic) car got a strong weed smell.” One picture of Mason found on the social media site shows the young man wearing red and is labeled “Blood Gang.”
Pulliam said her office is doing what they can to help police in their investigation. She said if someone had contacted CPS sooner, Faith may not have had to suffer.
“We are trying to weed through all the truth and lies to get to the bottom of what exactly happened to this baby,” Pulliam said. “That’s where we’re at at this point. We are going to let law enforcement do their jobs and let them do the investigation into that part. We have the baby safe, and that’s what matters now. It’s just unfortunate that no one made a report to us before this happened. It’s against the law not to report child abuse. Someone could have saved this baby horrible abuse if they had just made this call.”
Pulliam said she hopes this case will shed light on abuse and touch people who may know of or suspect abuse but have been too afraid or did not know how to reach out to someone who could help.
“We want to encourage the community, if they know anything about this case or if they know any child that is being abused or neglected, please make a report to the hotline. Let’s not wait until this happens again.”
If you know of or suspect child abuse, call the Child Abuse Hotline for Texas at (800) 252-5400.
“We can’t help these children if we don’t know about them.”
- By Sharon Brooks and Clay Thorp