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July 26, 1996


Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 10th Judicial Circuit, Peoria County, Illinois. No. 95--J--27. Honorable Stuart P. Borden, Judge, Presiding.

Released for Publication September 4, 1996.

Present - Honorable William E. Holdridge, Presiding Justice, Honorable Tom M. Lytton, Justice, Honorable John F. Michela, Justice. Justice Michela delivered the opinion of the court. Holdridge, P.j. and Lytton, J., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michela

The Honorable Justice MICHELA delivered the opinion of the court:

The trial court found the respondents, Shenita Brown and Fred Forest, to be unfit parents. Thereafter, the court terminated their parental rights. Both respondents appealed and this court consolidated the appeals. We affirm the trial court's decisions regarding both respondents.


The record shows that on January 13, 1995, the State filed a petition alleging that B.R. was an abused minor and that S.F. and C.W., Jr., (hereafter C.W.) were neglected minors due to severe injuries received by B.R. Respondent Forest is the father of S.F. The fathers of B.R. and C.W. were not involved in these proceedings. At the time the petition was filed, C.W. was 3 years old, B.R. was 14 months old, and S.F. was 2 months old. All three children were placed in shelter care.

On February 16, 1995, the State filed a supplemental petition to terminate the respondents' parental rights. The State alleged that both respondents were unfit for the following reasons: (1) depravity (750 ILCS 50/1(D)(i) (West 1992)); (2) extreme or repeated cruelty (750 ILCS 50/1(D)(e) (West 1992)); and (3) failure to protect the minors from conditions in their environment injurious to their welfare (750 ILCS 50/1(D)(g) (West 1992)).

At the fitness hearing, Dr. Robert Cruse, a pediatric neurologist, testified that he examined B.R. in the intensive care unit of St. Francis Hospital in Peoria on January 11, 1995. He described B.R. as stuporous and essentially in a coma. B.R. had hemorrhages in the retinas of both eyes, a condition which is consistent with a rapid acceleration/deceleration injury. He diagnosed B.R. as a victim of shaken baby syndrome. He further stated that B.R. was admitted with cardiac arrest which may have been caused by the brain injury. Cruse concluded that B.R. will remain severely impaired and will not be able to function normally or independently in the future.

Dr. Charles McCart, an emergency medicine physician, testified that he examined B.R. in the pediatric intensive care unit about 12 hours after his admittance. In his opinion, the bruising over B.R.'s body was consistent with at least two episodes of blunt trauma separated by at least one or two days. He noted that the bruising was very extensive and covered a large portion of his body. Furthermore, the number of bruises and their placement indicated that they were not consistent with normal activities of a child his age.

Peoria police officer Orlando Allen testified that he had a conversation with Brown on January 13, 1995. Brown told him that on January 10, 1995, she left her children with a neighbor so she could go on a job interview. On that day, the only bruise she had seen on B.R. was a small mark on his forehead. She told Forest that when he was ready, he should pick up the children from the neighbor's house. She was later notified that B.R. was in the hospital. At the hospital, Forest told Brown that he brought the children home, put B.R. down on the floor, and was putting the other children to bed when he heard a "klunk." When he reached him, B.R. had stopped breathing. Brown told Allen that when she saw B.R.'s face she asked Forest how he got all the bruises. Forest replied that when B.R. stopped breathing, he slapped him a few times. Allen asked Brown if Forest ever physically disciplined the children, and she said that he did not. However, Brown told Allen about an incident where Forest "whipped" C.W. in the head with a chrome belt buckle.

Allen interviewed Brown again three days later. This time, she told Allen that the day before B.R. was shaken, she came home and noticed that B.R. had a bruise on his forehead. Forest told her that it happened when B.R. fell from the toilet during toilet training. When Brown questioned Forest more closely, however, he yelled at her and she did not pursue the issue. Brown then admitted that she thought Forest had shaken B.R.

Allen also testified that he spoke with Forest on January 13, 1995. His version of how the incident occurred was substantially similar to what Brown said Forest told her at the hospital. Forest also specifically denied ever physically disciplining the children.

Peoria police officer David Zachman testified that on July 4, 1994, he responded to a call from Brown about Forest. Brown told Zachman that she and Forest had argued over money while she was holding B.R. Forest punched her twice in the face and hit B.R. in the head. At ...

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