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Alleged victim's mother takes the stand as Gipfert trial continues

 


On day five of the State of Nebraska vs. Nancy Gipfert, the alleged victim’s mother testified that her two-month-old son was healthy and normal until the events of Sept. 13, 2011.

Gipfert is charged with one count of child abuse causing serious bodily injury, a felony, for her alleged part in the incidences leading up the hospitalization of an infant who was in her care prior to suffering seizures and brain injuries.

The mother of the victim, who grew up in Sidney but now lives in Peetz took the witness stand yesterday afternoon. Her pregnancy with the alleged victim was a normal one with an uncomplicated delivery, she said.

When the infant first came home, he slept often during the day and was awake for most of the night, his mother reported. By mid-August he was sleeping more normally and seemed only to wake at night if he was hungry.

The infant would sometimes cry in the evenings and was difficult to console. This happened a few times a week but the problem was resolved by early September, the mother said.

The infant was progressing normally, his mother told the court.

“His sleep schedule was getting better,” she added. “He was starting to eat more.”

The boy was also becoming more active and moving his arms and legs more vigorously, his mother noticed.

On Sept. 12, the day before the alleged incident of abuse, the infant and his mother spent the day together. Nothing remarkable occurred that day, she said.

The morning of Sept. 13, 2011 was normal as well. The alleged victim’s mother prepared for her first day back to work after maternity leave. She and her son arrived at the Gipfert residence in Sidney at 7:30 that morning.

“He was fine, he was awake,” the alleged victim’s mother said.

The mother called Gipfert that afternoon to check on the baby. During this call, according to the alleged victim’s mother, Gipfert asked her if it was normal for the boy to sleep for a few hours during the day and the mother confirmed that it was. The mother did not think anything was wrong at this point or she would have left work, she said.

When the mother returned to Gipfert’s at around 4:20 p.m. to pick up her son, Gipfert informed her that he was sleeping upstairs. When they arrived in the bedroom his mother saw that the infant was sleeping on a bed with no guards on the side and that he didn’t look well, she said.

“He looked really pale to me and I guess just kind of lifeless,” the mother said.

Once the alleged victim’s mother got back down to the kitchen, she noticed there might be something wrong.

“[The infant] kind of opened his eyes and let out some high pitched screams that I’d never heard before,” the mother said.

The mother thought Gipfert’s behavior in the kitchen was suspicious. Gipfert was fidgeting with things and opened and closed the dishwasher several times, the mother said.

The alleged victim’s mother then left for her own mother’s home in Sidney. When she arrived she laid the infant down on a bed. The infant’s mother and grandmother began picking up his arms and legs and attempting to wake him.

“We were just trying to get a reaction out of him and he just wasn’t doing anything,” the mother said.

The baby’s eyes were rolling around in his head and he let out more high pitched screams, his mother said. This is when the grandmother called the hospital and the two decided to bring the infant to the emergency room.

After arriving at Sidney Regional Medical Center, the baby suffered his first known seizure.

“I had him in my arms and his whole body stiffened out and he quit breathing,” the mother said.

The boy was never in an accident, never dropped or injured and had no major health concerns before this moment, she said. After Dr. Calvin Cutright asked the mother if the boy had suffered any recent trauma, she called Gipfert, who allegedly said nothing had happened that day and asked for updates on how the boy was doing, the mother said.

Michael Guinan, representing the prosecution asked the mother if she thought Gipfert wanted updates out of concern for the boy or for herself.

“I feel like it was more for herself,” the mother alleged. “I don’t think she was concerned for [the infant’s] wellbeing.”

After a CT scan, doctors decided the infant should be flown to Denver.

When the parents arrived in Denver, the boy looked normal and they were able to hold him and feed him that night, the mother said. The parents were interviewed by Denver police that night, as well as by Lieutenant Keith Andrew and investigator Justin Loghry of the Sidney police in the following days.

The infant’s medical condition went downhill in the next few days when he began to suffer more seizures. He was experiencing five to ten minute long seizures every few minutes for hours at a time, his mother said. To her the boy looked particularly sick after returning from an MRI on Sept. 15.

“He literally almost looked dead laying in the bed,” she said.

Although at one point the infant was on a ventilator and feeding tube he did improve and went home Oct. 4, 2011. For the first few weeks at home, the infant was very lethargic.

“He just slept all the time, he was on five different medications,” his mother said.

The boy is now on one seizure medication, but the trauma he suffered had lasting effects, his mother said. He still sees an opthamologist, and a neurologist, goes to speech and physical therapy and an orthopedic doctor.

“He’s very clumsy,” his mother explained. “He doesn’t walk consistently.”

According to the mother’s testimony, his left side is weaker than the right. The back of his head is flat because a portion of his brain isn’t growing.

Although the boy, now 2 has some physical problems, his mother confirmed that he’s still able to run and sometimes plays with other children and can appear to be normal to others. She also confirmed that the tubes that had to be inserted in the boy’s ears could also affect his speech, but that there were concerns about his speech development before the tubes were inserted.

A video of the boy taken on Sept. 12, 2011, a day before the alleged incident was shown to the jury. It displayed an active, alert infant with his eyes open and arms moving around.

Don Miller, representing the defense asked the mother about differences in her statements to the Denver and Sidney police. She confirmed that she’d misremembered at least one detail in the first statement. She didn’t mention some of the things she testified to during court, simply because she didn’t deem them important at the time.

The mother denied that there were numerous times that the infant was crying uncontrollably and couldn’t be consoled during his first two months. She confirmed that the baby did sometimes cry for an hour after eating and that at one point that summer she was exhausted from taking care of her daughter during the day and the baby at night.

Miller also questioned the mother about whether or not she’d texted her own mother telling the infant’s grandmother that she was frustrated with his crying and didn’t know what to do. She denied this but admitted to texting her mother about her frustration that her husband didn’t help more, she said.

Others who had children in Gipfert’s care on September 13, 2011, also testified for the prosecution yesterday. Out of the 14 witnesses, none of them could remember seeing or interacting with the infant on the day in question and many testified to the quality of care that their children received while in Gipfert’s home. All denied finding any unexplained injuries to their children during Gipfert’s care and many claimed that she kept her home immaculately clean and orderly.

No one noticed anything unusual on that day and they all testified that parents were welcome to stop in whenever they liked.

Ryan Reisdorff spoke about how much his daughter enjoyed staying at Gipfert’s.

“She liked Nancy and everything seemed good to me,” Reisdorff said.

The first witness in the defense’s case yesterday was Susan Narjes, a long-time friend of Gipfert’s. Gipfert cared for Narjes’s oldest child who was a difficult baby.

“I felt very comfortable leaving him,” Narjes said, “Knowing he was in the best of care.”

Gipfert has a natural instinct for childcare, she concluded.

“I admire her calm, always controlled personality,” Narjes said.

Gipfert cared for Narjes’s children in the 1980s she confirmed. Narjes said she didn’t know anything about neighbor reports that Gipfert screamed at the children, or that she yelled at children for doing things incorrectly.

Gipfert would correct problem behavior in a firm voice, Narjes said. Gipfert gave the children structure and made them feel safe, she added.

Another witness for the defense was Suzanne Conrad, also a friend of Gipfert’s. She denied any knowledge that Gipfert would scream at children or spank them.

“That’s not the Nancy I know,” Conrad said. “I’ve never seen that in her.”

The trial is scheduled to continue today.

 

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