Prosecutors are calling it a horrific case of child abuse.
Today they charged the parents of a 5-month-old Peoria boy with first-degree murder. 21-year-old Tracey Hermann and 23-year-old James Sargent are accused of gross neglect and starvation of their baby. Last week Sargent called 9-1-1 from the family's Proctor Street home in Peoria. When rescue personnel arrived they found the baby unresponsive seated in a car seat placed inside a crib. Investigators now believe the child had been strapped in the car seat without food or water for eight days.
States Attorney Kevin Lyons said the room was about 80 degrees when the baby was fgound. The boy was wearing a snowsuit and held in the car seat by a rope. He said there are times "when crying yourself to sleep no longer works, and you cry yourself to death." Tracey Hermann has another child, a three year old girl. The state is moving to have that child permanently removed from Hermann. Because of the age of the Benjamin Sargent, both James Sargent and Tracey Hermann, are eligible for the death penalty if convicted. Lyons has 120 days from the time Sargent and Hermann are indicted to make that decision.
Here is a copy of Peoria County States Attorney Kevin Lyon's statement to the court: On February 12, 2008, Peoria Police responded to a call at 3012 W. Proctor Street in Peoria. Found dead and strapped in a car seat that had been placed in a crib was 5-month-old Benjamin Sargent. The defendants are his parents. Benjamin was wearing a blue snow suit. It was zipped up. The temperature in the room was near 80 degrees.Benjamin's eyes were open, his hands were clenched in a fistlike position and, although dead, his eyes were staring straight ahead. Police investigation and medical and pahtological examination would reveal that Benjamin had been strapped into this car seat and had not left it in eight days. All waste and urine had collected beneath him and his buttocks, legs and back were eaten into by the resulting poison. Some aste left in benjamin's colon revealed resulted in constipation because it could not be pushed out of his body due to starvation.
James Sargent was present at the house and, when interviewed on that day, and again on February 18, his answers to questions confirmed for police that Benjamin had been returned to the residence on february 4, 2008, by a grandmother and he was in the same car seat, wearing the same snow suit, and confined in the same manner as when he was found dead eight days later. A person who 'stayed' with others in the garage of the defendants told police that he was the one who observed Benjamin in the car seat, and on the living room floor, and that it was he who found this odd and so, he placed the child (while in the car seat) in a baby crib in a bedroom. The house was kept in an outrageous condition with nothing in its place, food left out and spoiled, and belongings scattered everywhere. Clothing, articles, spoilage, and debris were stacked everywhere around the house.
James Sargent told police he "thought" he had maybe moved Benjamin once or twice during the eight-day period but, upon further questioning, he conceded that he may not have been moved at all. The person from the garage tells police that Benjamin was found just as he had left him eight days earlier. The 'mother' was in Iowa, where she had gone to see a male boyfriend she found over the internet. She told police that caring for her baby Benjamin was not her duty and that it was James' responsibility. Before heading to Iowa on the day before Benjamin was found dead, Tracy Hermann said she looked at the baby in the crib and presumed he was sleeping so she said she stuck a bottle between the baby and the side of the carseat so that he woke up he could grab it and feed himself if he was hungry. In case the court missed it earlier, Benjamin Sargent was five months old. Tracy Hermann also has a daughter, almost 3, who Tracy Hermann seems to have 'given away' to a family member.
A shelter care hearing on that matter now pends in the circuit court because I am also seeking to remove her permanently and forever from any contact with Tracy Hermann. Preliminary examination of Benjamin Sargent's body showed that he weighed 10 pounds, suffered from sepsis in the blood and tissue, was without proper liquid and food and that he died from starvation due to neglect by the two defendants who stand before you, Tracey D. Hermann and James E. Sargent.
It boggles the mind. Now, I know that this kind of thing happens far more often than we hear about in the news, but the fact that this gained attention doesn't detract from the sheer horror of it.
And the part where they said his little hands were clenched... I seriously thought I would vomit. You know how babies clench their fists when they cry? My fucking god. That poor little boy. There are just no words.