Kloey Kirby, born prematurely with a heart murmur, is a “perfect baby” whose mother never wanted to let her go.
“I held her constantly,” said Shelly Brown, her mother. “She used to smile a lot.
“She doesn’t smile since this happened.”
Instead, the 2-month-old infant spent several days crying in a hospital ward, surrounded by doctors and nurses and other sick babies.
The reason: Six fractured ribs, a broken collarbone and a brain injury.
For a week, she battled dehydration. On Sunday, she was released from the hospital, her mother said, but doctors are unsure if she might one day suffer from learning disabilities.
“This wasn’t an accident,” Brown said.
The York County Sheriff’s Office is investigating.
Last week, sheriff’s deputies were sent to Piedmont Medical Center after hospital staff reported they were treating an infant with suspicious injuries. After speaking with Brown and Kloey’s father, David Kirby, deputies on March 18 placed the girl and her 2-year-old sister, Addison, in emergency protective custody.
It was the second time the York County office of the Department of Social Services took custody of one of Brown’s children. Last summer, officials noted suspicious injuries on Addison, then 18 months old and hospitalized with a broken leg and arm and bruises on her cheek, forearm, shins and stomach. After seven months, Addison was returned to her family March 17.
A day later, she was taken away again when her sister went to the hospital.
Brown, 20, said she left Kloey, the infant, in Kirby’s care so she could pay bills and run errands. But Kirby denies Kloey was in his care when she was injured. The girl was with his family, though, but he says he was at work.
Kirby’s mother called Brown and told her Kloey was “hot.” Relatives took the girl to the hospital, where doctors realized six of her ribs had been fractured, her collarbone had been broken and she suffered from other injuries they believed was consistent with shaken baby syndrome, Brown said.
“Somebody picked her up and shook her violently,” Brown said.
But nobody seems to know who did it. No charges have been filed, said Sheriff’s Office spokesman Trent Faris. A police report lists both Brown and Kirby as potential suspects in the incident, but both deny hurting their daughter.
Tammy Meetze, Kloey’s grandmother, and Kirby both say doctors told them some of the girl’s broken bones had started healing by the time she was in the hospital and her injuries were likely inflicted when she was only 2 weeks old.
Kirby, 23, and Brown both said Kloey had been vomiting several weeks ago and then developed bleeding in her eyes. They’ve been told those symptoms might be indicators of shaken baby syndrome.
“I want the truth to be told,” Meetze said. “I want to know what happened to my granddaughter. I want to know everything, as much as it’s going to hurt ... it can’t hurt no more than when I found out (about Kloey’s injuries).”
Last August, police opened an investigation into the alleged abuse of Brown’s older daughter, who had been taken to the hospital after relatives discovered her upper left arm was red and swollen, and she could not move it much, according to Rock Hill Police documents. Doctors learned she suffered from a spiral fracture. She also had a tibia fracture that had already started to heal by the time she went to the hospital. Medical records showed she had been to the emergency room two times earlier for dislocated elbows.
Brown said she questioned Kirby about the injuries. He told her the girl must have slept on it, a police report states. Brown took the girl to see a doctor, who told her Addison was fine, the report states. Brown could not explain why some of the bruises were old and others were new, or how or when the girl suffered a fracture in her leg. Police took the girl in to emergency protective custody. She was given to a foster family, Brown said, until last week.
For Michelle Murphy, Addison’s grandmother, losing the girl after just getting her back is devastating.
“Fighting seven months to get a child home is a little excessive,” she said.
“We’ve missed so much time with her,” said Charles Murphy, Addison’s grandfather. “I kind of feel like the system kind of failed us; we never really got contacted; we never really got checked out. We were trying to gain custody of her if my son couldn’t.”
The Murphys say social services officials never cited a specific reason why Addison’s father, Robby Murphy, could not have custody of her. Last month, DSS performed a home study on the grandparents, they said, before Brown received custody, albeit for a day. The family will be in court Monday when a judge will decide if Addison can return home.
“We often wonder what it’s doing to her,” Michelle Murphy said about Addison being shuffled from her family to foster parents. “She is the heart of our family. She got to go home to her mother for not even 12 hours and then, boom, she’s right back (in DSS custody).”
Police closed their investigation into Addison’s injuries in February after a detective reported he was unable to rule out any suspects and uncover enough evidence to file charges.
As of late Wednesday, DSS officials had not responded to Herald questions about Addison and Kloey’s cases.
In light of Kloey’s incident, police will review Addison’s case, said Rock Hill police spokesman Mark Bollinger.
For the next several months, Kloey will fight to be whole again.
“It took seven months with Addison and now we’ve got to start all over again with Addi, and we’ve got to start from scratch with Kloey until somebody admits to something,” Brown said.
Kirby had been hospitalized with liver failure for several days before his release on Tuesday. He was planning to speak with detectives again on Wednesday. He wants to know who hurt his baby.
“I should have been paying attention,” Kirby said about Kloey’s injuries to her eyes. “I always wanted to be the father that my dad wasn’t and half the father my stepdad was to me. I feel so bad. I feel like I’ve let her down as a father. A father is supposed to be the one to protect little girls. I feel like I let my little girl down.”
“(Doctors) say she’s going to get better,” Brown said. “They don’t know if she’s going to have any mental disabilities yet; it’s too early to tell.”
“I don’t care if she has a disability,” Brown said, “I’ll take care of her. She’s going to live.”