ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Child abuse charges were dismissed Wednesday against a Los Alamos family accused of acting negligently in the death of a 10-day-old boy last year.
Katrina Vigil gave birth to her son, Grey, at home, where she lived with her parents. All the adults faced felony charges heading into a preliminary hearing that began Tuesday. But on the second day of testimony, a judge tossed out their cases.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” said Robert Vigil, Katrina’s father, who, with his wife, Holly, also faced charges. “I didn’t think the state had enough evidence to prove what was being charged against any of us.”
Katrina Vigil, 26, wept and hugged supporters after state District Judge Michael Vigil dismissed the case. “It feels fantastic,” she told the Journal afterward.
The judge said the baby’s life would have ended the same regardless of the family’s actions.
“Baby Grey, no matter what… was born with a condition that would have resulted in his death,” Judge Vigil said.
Katrina Vigil — who apparently never even knew she was pregnant — gave birth to Grey in the basement of her parents’ home in September 2010. She kept the baby hidden from her family for an entire weekend, until Holly Vigil found the infant wrapped in a sleeping bag on her daughter’s bed the next Monday.
The family made an appointment to see a Los Alamos pediatrician the next day. Her concerns about the boy’s health ended in the infant being taken to University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque. Grey died days later at a hospice facility.
The infant was born with a rare brain malformation, which usually leads to death, and an Office of the Medical Investigator autopsy report ruled that he died from natural causes.
But prosecutors argued during the preliminary hearing that Katrina, Robert and Holly Vigil all acted negligently. Assistant District Attorney Judith Reed, who prosecuted the case with co-counsel Stephanie Pauly, said that Katrina Vigil should have sought immediate medical attention after the birth. The boy was jaundiced and suffered from other health problems, according to prosecutors and doctors who testified.
Prosecutors also said that the mother abandoned her baby for five hours the day after his birth during a trip to Santa Fe.
They also argued Robert and Holly Vigil didn’t react with a sense of urgency in getting the child medical attention after discovering him. Holly Vigil found the placenta in the basement but took no immediate action, and Robert Vigil was more concerned about meeting with his financial adviser and watching football, according to prosecutors.
“Don’t look at the view that this child was going to die anyway,” Reed told the judge Wednesday, “but what did they know that would cause a reasonable person to do something immediately.”
Also, in 2003, Katrina Vigil hid a previous pregnancy from a lover and told him that she had suffered a miscarriage. In fact, she gave birth and “took the baby to a park and pretended that she found (the child there),” according to court records from that case.
That child was adopted by a nurse and Katrina Vigil was never charged in that case.
Katrina Vigil’s attorneys, John Day and John “Chief” Young, argued that their client did nothing wrong. She didn’t even know she was pregnant, according to the defense attorneys and a doctor who testified Wednesday.
Dr. Martha Kendall, a Los Alamos physician, testified that Katrina Vigil came to her for a physical at the end of July 2010 and there was “no indication that (she) was pregnant when she came in.”
In an exam of the abdomen, the doctor said she did not notice any signs of pregnancy.
Neither did a follow-up pelvic exam show any clues, the doctor testified.
At the start of the preliminary hearing, Day referenced a television show, “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant,” to show such an occurrence isn’t all that unusual. On Wednesday, Day said Grey’s birth “was a surprise and a shock” to Katrina Vigil.
Despite that, Day said his client gave the baby proper care, referring to the autopsy report that said, although the baby was mildly dehydrated, he was “well-developed” and “well-nourished.”
Day acknowledged that the circumstances surrounding the birth were unusual but that “Katrina Vigil is not a criminal.”
The judge agreed.
“Leaving the child alone for five hours is a concern to me,” Judge Vigil said. “But I don’t see how that rose to the level of reckless disregard.”
The judge did not fault the family for not rushing the child to an emergency room, because testimony showed there was “nothing in the child’s appearance to show that the child was in need of medical care.”
Afterward, Dan Cron, the attorney for Holly Vigil, said, “Judge Vigil absolutely made the correct decision. The first doctor who saw the baby got it right when she described the situation as being an act of God.”
Todd Coberly, Robert Vigil’s attorney, said this case never should have been prosecuted.
“I think it’s a tragedy for everyone in this case that this was brought in the first place,” said Coberly, adding that the accusations put the Vigil family “through hell.”
The Vigils were critical of how the case has been portrayed in the media, especially information originally put out by the Los Alamos Police Department. LAPD erroneously said that the baby was found in the closet; a police captain wondered publicly how a mother could not know that her daughter is nine months pregnant; and a former prosecutor called the family’s actions “baffling.”
“It was hurtful going through all of that,” Robert Vigil said afterward.
Judge Vigil had suppressed statements that Katrina Vigil gave to Los Alamos police because she continued to be questioned after asking for an attorney.
Pauly said the preliminary hearing was intended to bring the evidence out in a public setting, to help set the record straight. The prosecutor added that she was disappointed in the outcome, but that “we respect the judge’s decision.”
9:51am 11/23/11 — Judge Weighs Charges in Los Alamos Baby’s Death
By Vic Vela/Journal Staff Writer
Did adults commit child abuse leading up to the death of a 10-day-old Los Alamos baby last year, or were the unusual circumstances surrounding the boy’s short life simply tragic instead of criminal?
A judge will have to determine whether there are grounds for charges that a mother and her parents committed third-degree felony child abuse in the case of baby Grey Vigil, who died of natural causes.
Prosecutors believe that the boy’s mother, Katrina Vigil, and her parents, Robert and Holly Vigil, all acted negligently by failing to take the baby to a doctor or provide proper care in the days after an at-home birth.
But defense attorneys argue that the boy was well cared for and note that, as reported in an autopsy report by the state Office of the Medical Examiner, he died from a rare brain malformation.
The defense also pointed to evidence from doctors who testified in court Tuesday that, even with the best medical care, the child would have succumbed to his syndrome not long after being born.
“Baby Grey,” as he was referred to during a preliminary hearing that began in state District Court Tuesday, died in September 2010, not long after Katrina Vigil gave birth to the boy in the basement of the Los Alamos home she shared with her parents.
The birth took place in secret, according to prosecutors. The mother kept her pregnancy hidden from her family and, after giving birth in the basement, “tied the umbilical cord with a piece of string and cut it with a pair of scissors,” according to assistant District Attorney Judith Reed.
It wasn’t until about three days after Grey’s birth that Holly Vigil, Katrina’s mother, found the boy wrapped up in a sleeping bag on his mother’s bed.
The child was jaundiced and was clearly suffering from other health problems, according to Reed.
“Even though these unusual conditions were present, Katrina Vigil made no effort to take Grey Vigil to the doctor,” Reed said.
Grandparents Robert and Holly Vigil saw their grandchild as an “inconvenience,” according to the prosecution. Instead of rushing the newborn grandson to a medical facility, Robert Vigil was more concerned with meeting with his financial adviser and watching Monday Night Football, Reed said.
As for Holly Vigil, a pediatrician testified that the grandmother told her she was “busy with her day-care” business when asked why the family didn’t rush the baby to a clinic.
Investigators say the family waited another day before taking the baby to Los Alamos Medical Center.
Grey Vigil died days later in hospice care, after first being treated at a Los Alamos clinic and then at the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque. The defendants aren’t charged with causing his death.
Defense attorney: nothing criminal
Defense attorneys for the Vigils were adamant Tuesday that their clients did nothing that rose to the level of criminal activity.
“Katrina Vigil did not commit child abuse,” said her attorney John Day. “Katrina Vigil did not endanger her baby.”
Day said that the story of the child’s birth and death was “not as astonishing as it may seem.” He said that Katrina Vigil, 25 at the time, didn’t know she was pregnant and neither did doctors who saw her a month earlier.
Day said that women like Katrina Vigil who give birth without knowing they’re pregnant aren’t that unusual, and he referenced a cable television show called, “I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant.”
Day said his client “cared for the baby regularly” and pointed to the state autopsy report that showed that, although the baby suffered from mild dehydration, Grey Vigil was “well-developed” and “well-nourished.”
Two doctors testified that a child with Grey Vigil’s condition, hydranencephaly, tend to not live very long. OMI reported earlier this year that babies with the affliction typically don’t live more than a year.
Dr. Mary Ellen Slaughter, a Los Alamos pediatrician who first examined the baby, was shown a statement she provided to the defense lawyer during a previous interview and acknowledged she had then said:
“There’s nothing that happened after this baby was born that the parents or grandparents did or did not do that had … any effect on the ultimate outcome.”
After Slaughter’s testimony, Dr. Erika Fernandez of the University of New Mexico Hospital testified on cross-examination that, even if the child had been born at her hospital and received quality care, nothing would have changed the boy’s “ultimate fate.”
Lawyers for the parents also defended their clients. Dan Cron, who represents Holly Vigil, said “she did not act with reckless disregard.” Todd Coberly, Robert Vigil’s lawyer, said that “nothing stood out to Robert that this baby needed medical attention.”
Mother had given secret birth earlier
Katrina Vigil had a previous pregnancy about eight years ago that was, apparently, also kept under wraps.
In 2003, she gave birth while in college and kept her pregnancy and child secret from the biological father. She told the man she had suffered a miscarriage, according to court records. The day after giving birth, she “took the baby to a park and pretended that she found the baby,” the records show.
That child was adopted by a nurse. Katrina Vigil was never charged in the 2003 case.
Carmela Alcon, an acting regional manager for the Children, Youth and Families Department, testified Tuesday that Robert Vigil told her during her investigation into what happened to Grey Vigil that he was “shocked, but not surprised” upon learning of his daughter giving birth under another set of secretive circumstances.
At the end of the preliminary hearing, Judge Vigil will determine whether there is enough evidence for the case against the Vigils to move toward trial. Testimony is scheduled to continue this morning.
11:13am 8/18/11 — Los Alamos Mother Charged With Child Abuse
The Los Alamos mother of a baby boy who died 10 days after his September birth has been charged with child abuse, although a recent autopsy showed the newborn died of natural causes.
Katrina Vigil, as well the baby’s grandparents Robert and Holly Vigil, were charged in criminal complaints filed Tuesday by the Santa Fe District Attorney’s Office.
Each of the Vigils faces a charge of “abuse of a child, negligently caused (no death or great bodily harm),” according to online court records.
Circumstances surrounding the death of baby Grey Vigil on Sept. 24 spurred law enforcement officials to investigate whether his mother had anything to do with it.
A few days after birth, Grey Vigil was airlifted to University of New Mexico Hospital when he was found to be in “severe distress.” The next week, the boy died while in hospice care in Rio Rancho.
At the time, police reported that the infant had been found in a closet by his grandmother. However, police later backtracked, saying that he may have been found on his mother’s bed.
Investigators became suspicious after learning that no one in the family took Grey to a hospital immediately after his grandmother reportedly discovered the child and instead waited a day before making an appointment with Los Alamos Medical Center. From there, the child was airlifted to Albuquerque.
Police also believed last year that Katrina Vigil, about 26 years old, may have been keeping the boy’s existence a secret from her parents, with whom she lived.
According to the recently released autopsy report, Grey Vigil died from complications stemming from hydranencephaly, in which the brain is not fully formed and the skull fills with fluid. Children with this affliction typically do not survive more than a year, according to the Office of the Medical Investigator.
An OMI report states that no physical injuries were found on the boy’s body and that he was “a well-developed, well-nourished, mildly dehydrated male infant.” The autopsy found that the boy’s manner of death was “natural.”
John Day, Katrina Vigil’s attorney, said Wednesday evening that prosecutors’ decision to file charges in the case was “curious” in light of the autopsy report.
Day said “the district attorney doesn’t have any evidence of any criminal intent or criminal activity in this sad and tragic situation.”
The criminal complaints against the Vigils don’t provide much detail. According to the Los Alamos Monitor, the complaints say they “negligently and without justification” caused Grey Vigil “to be placed in a situation that may endanger his life or health, to wit: failed to provide liquid and/or food and/or medical care to Grey Vigil, and the defendant(s) knew or should have known of the danger involved and acted with reckless disregard for the child’s safety or health. …”
In 2003, Katrina Vigil gave birth while in college and kept her pregnancy and the birth a secret from the biological father, according to court records. Vigil said she wanted the father “to continue his education” and told him she had suffered a miscarriage. The day after she gave birth, she “took the baby to a park and pretended that she found the baby,” the records say. That child was adopted by a nurse.
Vigil was never charged in the 2003 case.