South Bend, Ind. News of the death of four-month-old Halo Stutzman touched friends, family and community members Saturday. Investigators say she died of critical injuries sustained by her father.
Baby Halo died at 10 a.m. Saturday after nearly two days on life support. Medical personnel found "skull fractures, massive brain injury, bleeding behind the eyes, and bruising on her body."
Her father, 22-year-old Bryan Michel, has been charged with felony neglect of a dependent resulting in death.
Lorena Bond, a close friend of the baby's mother, Dominique Stutzman, says she felt sick when she heard the news.
"I'm still trying to bring my head around the fact that you would do something like that to your child," Bond said. "You know, four months old, she's never made a mistake. She's as innocent as they come."
Bond said she never feared for the safety of Dominique and her three children while in Michel's care.
"I did not because Dominique has to be one of the best mothers I've ever met," Bond said. "She would have stopped this in its tracks, she had nothing to do with this."
Investigators say Michel gave Stutzman two different stories to explain Halo's injuries. At first, he said their older daughter had pushed the baby off the couch but that Halo was fine and Stutzman should go to sleep.
According to charging documents, Stutzman awoke the next day to discover that Halo did not seem herself. She became worried and called 911.
Michel then reported a different story to police. He said the injuries were the result of a bath time fall in which Michel slipped and fell directly on the baby, crushing her under his weight.
"Regardless of what happened you should have called 911 right away," family friend Tiffany Peppers told NewsCenter16. "That baby could still be here today if he'd called 911 right away."
Medical personnel are unclear as to whether the second story is consistent with the child's injuries; some doctor's have voiced questions. An autopsy is tentatively scheduled for Monday.
Peppers came to the family's home to place flowers, pictures and balloons after learning of Halo's death Saturday.
"Dominique was all about her kids she wouldn't have let this happen Halo," she said. "It's sad knowing that she's gone -- with only four short months -- so we decided to come out here."