BY KEN LITTLE
The death of an 8-month-old girl is being investigated as a homicide by the Greene County District Attorney's Office.
The incident that caused the infant's death happened Sept. 17 at a house in the 1400 block of Fairview Road.
Preliminary information indicates the victim suffered "violent trauma" and died as a result of brain injuries, Third Judicial District Attorney General Berkeley Bell said.
The infant was first taken to Laughlin Memorial Hospital and then transferred to Johnson City Medical Center. She was removed from life support the night of Sept. 19, sheriff's Detective Lt. Jeff Morgan said.
A Sheriff's Department incident report said Greene County-Greeneville Emergency Medical Services responded to the Fairview Road address "due to an 8-month-old baby not breathing and suspicious circumstances involved."
On arrival, the baby "was breathing with help from being intubated, but pupils were unresponsive to lights," the report said.
The infant also had some bruising, described as being "in various stages," and "what appeared to be a bite mark" on her left arm.
A Greene Mountain Road address was listed for the infant on the report.
Deputies were called to Laughlin Memorial Hospital at the request of hospital employees after they assessed the baby's condition.
Sheriff's Department detectives and the Tennessee Department of Children's Services were then notified.
Bell said his office and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation are continuing an investigation into the death. A preliminary report on the baby's autopsy should be available this week.
"The child was subjected to violent trauma," Bell said. "We are, of course, looking, and doing an investigation. There are suspects."
When enough evidence is collected, the case "will go directly to a grand jury," Bell said.
An autopsy was performed at East Tennessee State University's Quillen College of Medicine. It will take "weeks" for final autopsy results to be available, Bell said.
The baby arrived at the hospital "in very bad condition" and was placed on life support, he stated.
The infant's case is one of "three or four" child deaths currently under investigation in the four-county Third Judicial District, Bell said.
"We have a lot of child abuse cases, and we have had several child deaths recently," he said.
The day after the infant girl was taken off life support, Sheriff Steve Burns requested that the TBI and Bell's office take over the investigation, Morgan said.
Morgan said sheriff's detectives are currently in the midst of several other time-consuming investigations, prompting the request to Bell's office for assistance.