Court documents reveal toddler violently beaten, child critically injured

Derek Pierce (left) Dakota McHenry (right)
Derek Pierce (left) Dakota McHenry (right)(WPTA)
Published: Oct. 19, 2021 at 11:40 AM EDT
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STEUBEN COUNTY, Ind. (WPTA) - Court documents reveal the events that lead up to a 3-year-old child being hospitalized with critical injuries.

The father, Derek Pierce of Kendallville and his girlfriend, Dakota McHenry of Fort Wayne, are facing child neglect charges after police say the man’s child was critically injured while in their care at a campground in Angola.

Police say they were called around 11:20 p.m. Friday, Oct. 15, about a child abuse investigation after a three-year-old girl was taken to the hospital.

Derek Pierce would not talk to detectives, but Dakota McHenry did.

According to the probable cause affidavit, Dakota McHenry spoke with police early Saturday morning. She said she was with the child all day at HI-VUE campground near Lake Gage. McHenry said she doesn’t hit the girl because she’s not her child and disciplines her by taking the girl’s toys away.

Detectives say McHenry told them Derek Pierce was with his daughter and she fell on the playground. She then changed her story saying it was a lie and made up. She then said she gave the child a bath and she slipped in the tub, but the child didn’t cry and she didn’t see any injuries.

Detectives got a search warrant and reviewed text messages sent back and forth between McHenry and Pierce. In the messages McHenry admits to hurting the child in the bathtub, saying the girl bit her finger. She says the child has red marks all over her ribs and is unresponsive and laying limp while she tries to dress her. She texts Piece saying she’s worried she may have hurt her.

According to the documents, Pierce gets home around 5:03 p.m. and the child is taken to the hospital at 8:39 p.m. Through the text messages, they were attempting to come up with a story for the child’s injuries to tell authorities.

McHenry later admits to police she, “whooped the [the child’s] ass then [the child] bit her, then she whooped her ass again and then when she tried to get [the child] out of the tub she was limp.” McHenry said the child “was not acting right after the bath.” McHenry said when Pierce got home, she took a nap.

She told detectives she hit the child’s head against the wall and faucet once and was being forceful with her in the tub.

According to court documents, the doctor caring for the child said her injuries include: bilateral subdural hematoma, bruises all over the body, punctured lung, bilateral retinal hemorrhaging also known as shaken baby syndrome. The doctor also said the trauma to her head is now causing seizures and strokes.

The doctor states the child should have been taken to the hospital the minute she went unresponsive and says her injuries are not consistent with a slip and fall in a bathtub. The doctor told detectives the child will “reasonably have some form of intellectual disability.” He says the little girl’s strokes are “located on the brain and will absolutely have an impact on intellectual rationalization and her cognitive thinking.”

Police arrested 25-year-old Dakota McHenry for neglect of a dependent causing serious bodily injury, domestic battery to a child less than 14 years of age causing serious bodily injury, and obstruction of justice.

The father, 31-year-old Derek Pierce, was arrested for neglect of a dependent causing serious bodily injury and obstruction of justice.

Both are being held without bond, police say.

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