The Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office arrested a woman Wednesday for allegedly murdering her 15-month old son in September.
Sheriff Randy Seal said Heather F. Bennett, 28, of Franklinton was charged with first-degree murder for the Sept. 1 death of Joshua David Bennett.
Seal said the WPSO was contacted on Sept. 1 by personnel at Children’s Hospital in New Orleans who reported that the toddler’s injuries did not match the explanation provided by the family, which claimed the child fell out of bed and hit his head on the floor.
Physicians said that the injuries were not consistent with such a fall and, instead, indicated shaken-baby syndrome.
Due to the seriousness of the child’s condition, WPSO Captain Tommie Sorrell responded to the hospital along with investigators from the Department of Children and Family Services. The toddler was pronounced dead at 5:34 p.m. that day.
The investigation by WPSO detectives and the DCFS included consultations with medical experts at Children’s Hospital who specialize in various areas of pediatric care.
“Their position is this case is non-accidental and that the primary cause of death was severe trauma caused by an acceleration/deceleration injury, which is commonly known as shaken-baby syndrome, to the brain,” Seal said.
The mother was the suspect from the beginning, but her arrest was delayed while investigators awaited a conclusive diagnosis, autopsy results and a death certificate.
On Wednesday, after more than five weeks of investigation and armed with a death certificate that gives “homicide” as the cause of death, the WPSO obtained a warrant and arrested Heather Bennett. She was booked into the parish jail.
Bennett’s two other children, a 4-year-old son and a 6-week-old daughter, have been in the custody of her parents since Joshua’s death, according to the WPSO.
Seal said the arrest was necessary.
“I have an obligation to uphold the law when any tragedy occurs,” he said. “There was definite probable cause to obtain an arrest warrant for Mrs. Bennett and the sheriff’s office did what is required by Louisiana law. I offer my prayers and sympathy for the Bennett family and the entire community that has been affected by this tragedy.”