The grim and grisly details of what happened to young Haileigh Poutre at the hands of her step-father, Jason Strickland and her adoptive mother, Holli, who was her aunt, indicate the child was beaten with a baseball bat and thrown down the stairs more than once. According to the news report, her aunt was killed shortly after Strickland and Holli were released on bail, but that incident is also still being investigated:
"Within two weeks of the couple pleading innocent to the beating, Holli Strickland was dead, fatally shot in her grandmother’s West Springfield apartment. The body of her 71-year-old grandmother, Constance Young, was beside her. The possible double suicide or murder-suicide is still under investigation.
In a legal brief filed before Tuesday’s hearing, Strickland, 31, asks to be declared Haleigh’s de facto parent. His lawyer, John Egan, insists his client is not motivated by the chance he could be charged with murder if the girl dies."
Holli, who had a degree in child care, and Strickland, both attacked the child, according to one witness:
"But Alicia Weiss, a baby sitter for Haleigh, testified at a hearing in Strickland’s criminal case that she saw Holli Strickland kick the girl down the stairs repeatedly and hit her with a baseball bat. She said she also saw Jason Strickland hit the girl twice with an open hand and once with a plastic stick.
Although he has not been accused of dealing any particular blows to the child, court documents accuse Strickland of watching as his wife abused Haleigh."
The state's Supreme Court heard the case Tuesday, though Justices indicated Strickland had no real standing in a custody claim.
The state's Department of Social Services now has legal custody of the comatose child, and doctors are saying she will never come out of her vegetative state.
Within the maze of abuse and abandonment and legal rights, the child remains in the center spotlight. What will the courts do? Will more state officials argue for the girl's life-support to be suspended? And is there any punishment which might suit this string of brutal crimes?