Father's girlfriend arrested in death of 3-year-old Bellingham girl

BELLINGHAM, Wash. -- A 3-year-old girl brought to a hospital with a brain bleed has died, and her father's girlfriend is accused of causing her death.

According to Bellingham Police, a woman called 911 the morning of Nov. 27 to report a child possibly choking on something. The child, a 3-year-old girl, was taken St. Joseph's and treated for hypothermia, but staff also found she was suffering from a brain bleed.

She was transferred to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where doctors told investigators the toddler appeared to have symptoms of shaken baby syndrome. Doctors said there were no signs of choking and they suspected abuse.

She died a few days later on Nov. 30.

Investigators said they believe the child had been the victim of a pattern of abuse, as evidenced by healing broken bones, other injuries and reports from Child Protective Services.

The girlfriend of the child's father, a 27-year-old woman, was arrested Thursday, Dec. 5 in the 4100 block of Cordata Parkway. She was booked into the Whatcom County Jail on a second-degree murder charge. Q13 does not name suspects until they are formally charged with a crime.

A judge on Friday found probable cause to move the case forward after hearing from several family members in court.  The defendant's bail was set for $1 million.

Before the court hearing Q13 News sat down with Hazel's dad and grandfather.

Her grandfather Jason Pederson says it's hard to find a picture of Hazel when she is not smiling.

“This little girl, if you were sad she would crawl on your lap and she would hum and she would love you,” Pederson said.

Family members say she was a sweet child who loved to sing and dance. You were instantly her favorite if you brought her chicken nuggets.

Pederson says he lived with Hazel for the first year of her life, and on Friday he broke down as he described the last time he saw his beloved granddaughter.

“The last time I saw her it was in the hospital with a bunch of tubes sticking out,” Pederson said.

Although police say  the injuries are a direct result of suspected physical abuse on Nov. 27, Hazel’s dad Brandon Homan is defending his girlfriend.

“Only the true people what kind of mother she was to my daughter and to our kids, we love our kids with all of our heart,” Homan said.

Homan says he has questions about what happened, but he says his girlfriend never abused his daughter.

“This is a tragic situation, and I hurt more than anyone. I am the father, it’s my baby girl. I want answers too, but don’t place blame,” Homan said.

But Pederson and other family members say they want the girlfriend prosecuted.

Prosecutors in court told a judge that the defendant is suspected of abusing Hazel for a 6-month period including the time when she visited the ER with a burned hand.

Family members say CPS removed Hazel from Brandon and the biological mother after a domestic violence incident and Brandon was arrested. Hazel lived with her grandmother for more than a year before CPS placed her back in Brandon’s care.

CPS had no comment about Hazel’s case on Friday.