Trust shattered amid charges baby-sitter struck infant

Thursday, April 7, 2005

Cape Girardeau couple Jeffrey and Wendy Street will never trust a stranger with their 4-month-old child, Chloe, again after their baby-sitter allegedly beat the baby Friday night.

The baby-sitter, Karen Byrum, 43, has been charged with felony child abuse after the couple discovered bruises on the abdomen, buttocks and legs of the child.

"I went to change her, and when I took her outfit off she had bruises all over her chest and her bottom," said Wendy Street. "They were still appearing as we got her to the hospital."

They rushed Chloe to the hospital and called the police. A Cape Girardeau police officer interviewed the couple and Byrum and filed a probable cause statement for Byrum's arrest, which states the baby-sitter confessed to striking the baby because Chloe was fussy, but not hard enough to cause bruises.

Byrum was arrested and charged Tuesday after prosecutors determined there was enough evidence to make a case.

The Streets had responded to a newspaper advertisement placed by Byrum, who offers baby-sitting services out of her home. The Streets work nights so they need baby-sitting at that time, which Byrum offered.

After initial meetings and a background check, the couple thought Byrum was safe.

"She just portrayed herself as this Christian lady, and she's an older lady and she has a nice house, a nice vehicle and she's worked for the same company for years at a time," said Wendy Street.

Byrum had kept Chloe about six times before Friday without any such incidents, she said.

The baby is now undergoing tests and examinations by specialists to rule out shaken baby syndrome.

Now only relatives and friends will be able to watch baby Chloe, said Wendy Street.

"She will never go to another baby-sitter. It doesn't matter how many background checks -- we did background checks on her, we did references on her, we did interview after interview -- there's never enough.

"I just hope they punish her to the max, because if they just try her as a first-time criminal what's she going to do the second time around?"

msanders@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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