WEST GOSHEN >> A township woman employed as a paid caregiver for a 22-month-old boy has been arrested and charged with the child’s murder more than three years ago, according to a criminal complaint filed last week by police investigators.
Police said that Hainan “Chelsea” Chang, her husband, and the child’s maternal aunt brought the boy to the Chester County Hospital the morning of Jan. 8, 2015, wrapped in a blanket. He was declared dead there, the cause of death later determined to be multiple blunt force injuries to the head, subdural hematoma, retinal hemorrhages, and other injuries.
Chang, who was the child’s sole caregiver in the time before his death, said he had been unresponsive for more than 20 hours before she brought him to the emergency room.
Chang, 43, of West Chester, was taken into custody at her home on Friday, and charged with third-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, and endangering the welfare of children.
The death was listed as a homicide in October after a forensic review of the case by a noted medical examiner
The defendant was arraigned by Magisterial District Judge William Kraut, who ordered her held in Chester County Prison without bail. A preliminary hearing has been set for April 5.
Her arrest marked the fourth time in less than six months that an adult caregiver has been charged with the death of an infant in the county. Just one month before, on Feb. 10, a Coatesville father, Zion Isaiah Shockley, was charged with first-degree murder in the death of his 5-mont-old son. He is awaiting trial in Common Pleas Court.
In December, authorities announced the arrests of a Downingtown man and a Coatesville man in separate incidents involving the deaths of two children. Jamal Bailey was charged with giving his 10-month-old daughter the anti-psychotic medication Seroquel, causing her death in April 2017. William Gardner was charged with third-degree murder in the December 2016 death of his 4-month-old son by physical abuse. Both are awaiting trial before Judge Jeff Sommer.
Chang’s case has been assigned to Deputy District Attorney Megan King of the DA’s Child Abuse Unit. She was unavailable for comment Friday. First Assistant District Attorney Michael No one declined comment on the case.
Attorney Evan Kelly of West Chester, who represents Chang, said Saturday that the case was a tragedy, but that his client was not responsible for the boy’s death.
“She brought the child to the hospital, she cooperated with police,” Kelly said. “Then 2 1/2 years later, a doctor declared it to be a homicide. We adamantly disagree, and we’re going to fight the charges.”
According to the complaint filed by West Goshen Detective David S. Maurer and Lt. Michael Carroll, Chang was paid $2,000 a month by the child’s parents to care for him. The parents live in Florida, where they operate a restaurant, and needed someone to look after the child as their work schedules made it difficult.
In an interview with investigators, Wei Feng “Mandy” Dong, the child’s maternal aunt, said she had approached Chang and her husband, Siu Fung Lee, about serving as caregivers in early 2014. The couple has two school age children of their own. They began caring of the boy in March of that year, when he was a 1-year-old.
Chang gave police a long narrative about the time between Jan. 7, 2015, and Jan. 8, 2015, when she was looking after the boy on her own because her husband was at work on the overnight shift in Philadelphia. She and her husband both said at the time that there were no obvious injuries to the boy in the days before his death.
According to the complaint, Chang said Jan. 7, 2015 started off as a normal day as her children went to school. She said she fed the boy around noon and later took him out of his high chair and placed him on the kitchen floor. While she was in her son’s bedroom, she heard the child begin to cry and went to check on him. She said she found him under the kitchen table, and had to get down on the floor to drag him out from underneath.
Chang said the child had a red mark on his forehead, and that when she picked him up he vomited. She sat with him until he stopped crying, she told police, and then put him back in his high chair, where he seemed to go to sleep.
Lee, Chang’s husband, told police that he saw the boy in the high chair about 3 p.m. that day when he returned home from work, and that he appeared to be asleep. He stayed there until 4:30 p.m., when she moved him to a sofa, but he still was not moving or responding. Both Lee and Chang said they thought he was asleep.
Chang reported that she tried to feed the boy and change his diaper around 11 p.m.; he did not swallow but let the food run out of his mouth. She said she put him in bed because his hands were cold, but that through the night he never moved or woke up.
The next morning, Chang said, the boy was still in bed and appeared to be sleeping, so she got her children ready for school. When she put him in his high chair, he slumped over to the side and was not responding. She put him in bed, walked her children to catch the school bus, and checked on the boy, whose face was now cold, his hands rigid, and legs stiff. His lips were white.
She and her husband took the boy to the hospital at about 9:40 a.m. He was declared dead at 10:13 a.m.
The boy’s death was reported to Maurer by county Chief Deputy Coroner David Garver shortly thereafter. When the detective responded to the hospital, a nurse, Jennifer Walsh, told him she had concerns about the case because the boy had bruises on his forehead, a scratch on his neck and shoulder, and his body temperature was only 82 when Chang arrived with him at the emergency room.
An autopsy revealed that the boy had acute subdural hematoma, cerebral edema, and hemorrhages around his eyes. He also head blunt trauma to the torso and upper extremities, but no healing or healed fractures or chronic brain injuries were found, according to the complaint.
Later, an examination was conducted by a pediatric expert at Willis Eye Hospital in Philadelphia, who concluded that the boy was the victim of “abusive head trauma characterized by repeated acceleration-deceleration with likely blunt head impact”— much like shaken infant syndrome.
In October 2017, Dr. Tracey Corey, the chief medical examiner for Kentucky, completed a comprehensive forensic pathology review, according to the complaint. “Noting the lack of any significant trauma to explain the injuries suffered by the child, Dr. Corey’s report indicates that the cause of death is a traumatic brain injury,” the complaint states. “She states that in her opinion, the manner of death is a homicide.”
To contact staff writer Michael P. Rellahan call 610-696-1544.