Assistant District Attorney Vicki Taggatz Clussman charged a New London man with first-degree reckless homicide following the death of a 3-year-old boy.
Lance S. Vandenbusch, 36, is accused of killing his son, who died six days after suffering traumatic injuries to his head in December 2013.
The boy, who was one month shy of his third birthday, was brought to ThedaCare Medical Center in New London shortly before 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013.
Court records say the boy was moaning and unresponsive when he arrived at the hospital. His right arm was clenched and shaking. There was extensive bruising around his left eye and on his right cheek. There was also a large, purple bump on his forehead.
New London Police Officer Josh Wilson was dispatched to the hospital.
The emergency room physician, Dr. Mark Westfall, showed Wilson the boy’s brain scans and said the injuries were not consistent with the parents’ stories.
The boy was transferred to Theda Clark Medical Center in Neenah, where an emergency craniectomy was performed.
The pediatric neurosurgeon at Theda Clark, Dr. Sumon Bhattacharjee, said the head injuries were severe enough to cause serious brain damage, according to the criminal complaint.
The boy was then transferred to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee for post-operative care.
On the morning of Dec. 4, Dr. Alice Swenson, with Children’s Hospital, contacted Wilson about the case.
She said the boy’s injuries were a result of being shaken, thrown or slammed.
“He is currently in grave condition and may not survive his injuries,” Swenson wrote in a Dec. 4 medical report to New London police. “There is no history of trauma provided to explain these severe and massive injuries. These findings, in absence of any history of a massive traumatic event, are diagnostic of child physical abuse.”
Swenson noted that the amount of force required to inflict this level of injury were well beyond what is considered appropriate care of a child.
The boy’s condition was considered grave. “If he survives this injury, (the boy) will likely be neurologically devastated.”
He died at 3:59 p.m. Monday, Dec. 9.
The boy’s mother, Judith Warren, told investigators she had gone to work at approximately 10:45 a.m. on the day of the incident. Earlier that morning, she fed her children breakfast, took her older children to school, returned and watched cartoons with her 3-year-old until she left for work.
She said she noticed a small amount of blood coming from his nose when he sneezed.
At about 12:30 p.m., Warren received a text message from Vandenbusch, indicating the boy was getting sick. She then received another text before 1 p.m., saying the boy had vomited.
She suggested that Vandenbusch put the boy in bed and said she would try to come home early.
After finding someone to take her shift at work, Warren came home at about 2 p.m. She looked in on the boy and he was sleeping. She told police she did not notice any bruises.
Warren then went to bed. She heard the boy making “race-car noises” and Vandenbusch went to check on him. The noises stopped, then started again.
Both parents went in to check on the boy. They reported finding him with his fists clenched, his body stiff, and he would not open his eyes.
The parents drove the boy to the New London emergency room. At that time, the mother said she first noticed the bruises on the boy’s face.
According to the criminal complaint, Vandenbusch told investigators that he and the boy had been watching cartoons after Warren left for work. He said the boy was lying across his body, playing and making noises, when the boy vomited on him.
He cleaned the boy with a towel, gave him a bath, then put him to bed.
When questioned about the injuries, Vandenbusch said he did not know how they happened. He told police he did not see the boy fall or hit his head.
He also denied slapping the boy.
Vandenbusch faces up to 60 years in prison if convicted.