An Idaho couple were recently arrested in connection with a horrific child abuse case involving sexual assault and “traumatic” injury last week. Now, new details about the case have emerged.
Nicholas T. Branson, 26, stands accused of felony injury to a child and forcible sexual penetration by a foreign object. Hailey N. Harris, 26, stands accused of felony injury to a child. Both defendants hail from Hayden, Idaho and were arrested on Jan. 21, 2022 by deputies with the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office. Branson and Harris remain in jail on $20,000 bail, which is mandatory in the Gem State unless one is accused of a crime that could result in the death penalty.
The alleged victim in the case is a 7-week-old baby girl.
In December, KCSO deputies responded to Kootenai Health, a hospital in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, after the agency received reports of the infant sustaining “traumatic” injuries that were said to be both “significant and critical” and consistent with sexual abuse, according to court documents cited by the Coeur d’Alene Post Falls Press.
After a month-long investigation, authorities executed arrest warrants and took the pair into custody.
Additional and recently-released documents cited by the paper allege that a doctor who examined the child described her as suffering brain injuries “very specific to abuse” and “not seen in accidental head injury.” According to medical personnel cited by law enforcement, the girl suffered at least 14 fractures, including multiple fractures to both legs. Those court documents say that such injuries are likely caused by “forceful grabbing and twisting” of an infant’s limbs.
But that wasn’t nearly all the doctors found.
Additionally, doctors reportedly said, the girl appeared to have sustained multiple rib fractures that likely occurred at different times. Those fractures are reportedly consistent with blunt force trauma and/or squeezing. The girl also had liver damage that was said to be consistent with blunt force trauma to her abdomen.
The girl also showed signs of bruising on her torso. Those bruises, doctors said, were “patterned after a fist or fingers.” She also reportedly had mouth injuries consistent with a bottle being roughly forced into her mouth. Medical staff at the hospital also told law enforcement there was evidence of trauma on the child’s genitals.
According to the KCSO, law enforcement collected evidence that included a bloody diaper and numerous allegedly tell-tale text message exchanges between Harris and Branson regarding the girl.
“She won’t stop ducking [sic] crying,” Harris reportedly said to Branson in a frantic string of messages one day in December of last year.
“I’m going to freak out,” those messages allegedly continued. “I cannot handle it anymore.”
When questioned by police, Branson allegedly admitted to causing some of the girl’s injuries and to sexually abusing the newborn. Harris, however, denied shaking or sexually abusing the child.
The child abuse charges are punishable by up to 10 years in state prison. The sexual abuse charge is punishable by life in prison.
Prosecutors are reportedly likely to request additional bail for the defendants in a hearing currently slated for next week.
[images via Kootenai County]
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