Recognizing signs of physical child abuse
Jessica Magnusson can’t look at her own child anymore without thinking of her 2-year-old nephew.
Tyler Haws died Easter Sunday after he was taken off life support. His caregiver is accused of causing his death.
“I thought him and my son were going to grow up together,” Magnusson said Tuesday. “They were only five days apart. Now, I look at my son and think Tyler should be here, and forever, I’m going to think that. I wish we could have been looking harder and not been so naive.”
Tyler, who had autism, was taken off life support on Easter Sunday at Children’s Hospital in Birmingham.
Jason Sparks, 24, of Leeds, Alabama, was arrested on charges of murder and aggravated child abuse in Tyler’s death. Sparks had brought Tyler to the hospital but “indicated he did not know what was wrong with the child,” Leeds Police Chief Jim Atkinson said.
A series of tests revealed Tyler had brain bleeding and was hemorrhaging. Hospital personnel, the chief said, summoned authorities to the hospital.
Medical personnel determined the boy suffered brain damage in addition to the brain bleed and died as a result.
His family said Tyler also had a punctured lung and bruising to his body.
Tyler had been staying with Sparks and his wife to give Tyler’s father time to recover from personal health issues following his mother’s death to cancer, his family said.
The family had been close to Sparks’ wife, who attended high school with the boy’s father and kept in touch with the family over the years.
The Sparks’ family volunteered to care for Tyler for a few months while the child’s father recovered.
“All we heard was how great Tyler was doing,” his aunt said. “We were truly blindsided by this.”
Tyler’s family described him as a happy, fun-loving little boy who loved to dance and hop around.
“He was very active,” Magnusson said. “He liked to take things apart and put them back together. He liked music. The only issue was he really couldn’t talk, but if you went and played with him, he’d laugh.”
Since Tyler’s death, Magnusson said the Sparks’s have tried to suggest Tyler caused his own injuries, but the family and authorities aren’t buying it.
“Who volunteers to take a baby and then destroys the child?” she said. “If Tyler would have been given a chance to find his voice, he would have had the best potential because he was the sweetest, happiest little boy. It’s so sad his life got stolen before he had a chance at life.”
Sparks “was the sole caregiver” at the time of Tyler’s death, Atkinson said.
However, Sparks called his wife to come to the hospital when he brought the child there for medical help.
Sparks spoke to detectives, the chief said, but never admitted to any crime.
After his arrest, Sparks was taken to the Jefferson County jail in Alabama. His bond was set at a total of $130,000 on both charges.
A grand jury will review the evidence in the case for indictments.
If convicted of murder, Sparks could go to prison for up to life.
The next step in the case will be a preliminary hearing.
“It’s just very tragic and it’s not the first time I’ve heard of cases like this,” Atkinson said. “It’s very, very tragic for anyone, but especially for a child that never had a chance to defend himself.”