A Caledonia couple is in police custody after being charged with child abuse after their one-month old baby was found to have multiple fractures to his head and body.

Krystal Hall, 25, and her fiance Gest Wangsness, 31, were charged by the Racine County District Attorney’s Office on Thursday with physical abuse of a child — party to a crime, and child neglect resulting in great bodily harm — party to a crime.

If convicted of both charges, Hall faces up to 60 years in prison and/or fined up to $125,000, and Wangsness faces up to 52 years in prison and/or up to $125,000. Hall faces additional time because she has prior felonies. A $100,000 cash bond has been set for the couple.

Doctor: Fractures Caused By Child Abuse

According to the criminal complaint, Caledonia Police were sent to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Monday for a report of a possible child abuse due to a 33-day old baby boy having fractures to his skull, a broken rib, two fractures in his right leg and one to his left leg. He also had bleeding on the brain. The doctor told police that “in her medical opinion the fractures were caused by abuse.”

Staff at Children’s Hospital told police that Hall initially brought the baby to Ascension-All Saints Hospital in Racine, but they arranged to have the baby transported by ambulance to Children’s Hospital in Milwaukee.

In a separate incident, Hall had taken the boy to Ascension-All Saints emergency room two weeks ago because the boy had an injury to his tongue. The doctor at Children’s Hospital told the officer that both incidents were never reported to police, that the injuries could have only been caused by some type of physical abuse or some type of surgery.

Couple: We Didn’t Do It

When questioned, Hall told police she didn’t know how the boy became injured, that he was her world and she did not abuse the boy. She explained that she and Wangsness are the only people who take care of the baby, but Hall takes care of him 90 percent of the time. Hall told police that she is a recovering heroin addict and she hasn’t used since October 2013, but she is on parole for operating a vehicle under the influence.

Caledonia Police told Hall that she and Wangsness “were the only people that could have caused the injuries” to the boy based on her account of things, the complaint reads.

She told police that she was playing with the boy when she realized his “head was not shaped as it normally is.” The woman called the hospital and explained the boy’s injuries to them over the phone because she didn’t want to take him in for “another false alarm.”

Wangsness Says He Played Rough With Baby

Wangsness, an army veteran that suffers from post traumatic stress disorder and a traumatic brain injury, told police he received his injuries from a roadside bomb in Iraq. Being very thorough in his details of the prior 72 hours, he told police that he didn’t knowingly injure the boy if he did. He told police he played with the baby “kind of rough sometimes” and he was playfully swinging his son “because he thought that was appropriate behavior for father and son.”

He explained how he got parenting information from YouTube videos.

When officers asked how the boy’s tongue started bleeding. He explained that he gave the boy vitamins through a syringe and “shoved the syringe” under the boy’s tongue. Later that night, he noticed that the baby’s mouth was bleeding and they used a syringe to suck the blood out of his mouth. When they did that, they noticed a small hole and took him to the hospital.

Tearing up, Wangness started to blame himself for the boy’s injuries, but he told police he didn’t know he did anything to hurt the boy.

Still, Hall and Wangness denied hurting the baby, who has been released from the hospital. The couple is currently being held in Racine County Jail.

A preliminary hearing has been set for 8:30 a.m. Nov. 10 in front of Racine County Court Commissioner John Bjelajac for Hall. Wangsness’ initial appearance was adjourned until 1:30 p .m. Nov. 4.

 

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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.