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Mom carried him into Escondido's Learning Jungle

Bruises in non-bony areas were the tip-off

Terra, the boy’s mother, turned 31 the month before she gave birth. Both she and Jared have fair skin and red hair; when he was born, the baby’s bright red hair was almost unbelievable.
Terra, the boy’s mother, turned 31 the month before she gave birth. Both she and Jared have fair skin and red hair; when he was born, the baby’s bright red hair was almost unbelievable.

The day the baby boy was born in 2016, the hospital made a call to CPS. “They had them involved since the boy was born,” his father Jared testified in court five years later — after something happened. (Child Protective Services might be called, for example, if a newborn baby tested positive for drugs, although Jared did not say if that was the reason here.) Terra, the boy’s mother, turned 31 the month before she gave birth. Both she and Jared have fair skin and red hair; when he was born, the baby’s bright red hair was almost unbelievable. And his skin is still exceptionally white.

Jared was able to start visiting with his son in early 2018, when the boy was a year and a half old. At first, Jared was allowed to visit only on Sundays from 9 to 5; this was described as “five percent physical custody” by the people who decide these things. Jared and Terra usually met at Starbucks to exchange their toddler. As the weeks and months went by, Jared started noticing bruises on his son. They were all over: on his hips, head, ribs, and shoulder blades. And always on his arms and legs. It seemed like the boy got new bruises before the old bruises finished healing. And he had diaper rash. Jared told Terra about his concerns, but Terra explained those were normal bruises from the toddler bumping into things, and she denied there was any diaper rash. Jared still worried. Eventually, Terra told him to stop asking about the bruises and diaper rash.

Terra Gene Brinkmeier, now 36, was charged with felony child abuse.

In March 2019, Jared made an appointment with his son’s regular doctor; he wanted to take the boy there during one of his Sunday visits. But as it happened, Terra took their son to that doctor before Dad’s appointment, and explained away his concerns. As the months passed, Jared took his son to Rady’s children hospital on three different Sundays. He wanted some answers about the bruises and diaper rash. The hospital did make calls to CPS, because hospital workers are “mandated reporters.” But members the hospital staff were unsure about the cause of the bruises. Finally, in February 2020, father Jared was able to get full custody of his three-year-old son. That was after the hospital found that his boy had a fractured arm.

THE LEARNING

JUNGLE

Early that Thursday, mother Terra took her son to The Learning Jungle in Escondido; she had been taking him to that daycare for a month. Daycare worker Patty remembered that Terra carried her son that morning, and that the petite woman never had carried her big boy before. The worker also noticed that the boy was in distress, which was also not normal for him. After Terra left, Patty noticed the boy was favoring one arm, not using it. When Patty tried to touch the arm, it seemed painful. Eventually, she was able to gently rub it, and she found a bump. So the daycare workers phoned Terra and told her to come back and pick up her son.

Escondido police detective Therese Ruiz has been with Escondido police for 15 years; she has special training in child abuse and has worked in the family protection unit for more than four years.

HOSPITAL

Dr. Premi Suresh is a pediatrician at Rady’s Children Hospital. She has special training in child abuse. Dr. Suresh was aware that Jared had brought his three-year-old to hospital in June 2019 and again the next month. Although the father was concerned about bruising and diaper rash, the doctor explained that a toddler will get bruises on bony exposed areas. Other doctors who had seen the boy described non-specific bruising plus one bruise on the abdomen, which Dr. Suresh described as unusual because it is not a bony spot. The third time Jared brought his boy to Dr. Suresh’s clinic, on February 5, 2020, she saw another bruise on the boy’s abdomen and commented, “Bruising on the abdomen is very unusual.” Plus, she said later, “He also had a bruise on the top of his foot, that’s just a weird place to have a bruise for a toddler.” And “there was bruising on his back.” Because the father was so concerned, Child Welfare Services was contacted, and a report was filed.

Two weeks later, the boy was brought to Palomar Hospital with a fractured right arm. Dr. Suresh said it was a right transverse proximal humerus fracture — “a high-force fracture.” She said, “It is a significant fracture, just because the two pieces are so far apart.” The doctor was told that the boy had tripped over some steel-toed boots, or maybe fallen over some books. But she opined that while such an event might create a wrist or elbow injury, a toddler’s fall from standing height would not typically cause such a fracture. She would expect “a more significant history” — for example, a fall from high monkey bars or jumping from a trampoline. She said, “He had bruising on his other arm as well, on the left arm, on the fleshy portion of his arm. They said it was from getting his blood drawn, but it didn’t seem like that would be where the blood would be drawn.” In the doctor’s memory, the mother made it sound like she was there when it happened, and that maybe her boyfriend was there, too. The boy was first treated at Palomar Hospital, and then transferred to Rady’s Children’s Hospital, because he needed a cast on his arm and Rady’s has a “child pediatric team.”

ESCONDIDO POLICE DETECTIVE

Escondido police detective Therese Ruiz has been with Escondido police for 15 years; she has special training in child abuse and has worked in the family protection unit for more than four years. Ruiz spoke with 34-year-old mother Terra at Rady’s children’s hospital on February 21, 2020. “She was cooperative at that time,” detective Ruiz remembered later, when she testified. There was also a Child Welfare Services worker there at the hospital who had some knowledge of the family, and who spoke with detective Ruiz. The detective said Terra told her she lived with her boyfriend in an apartment in Escondido, and that “it was their normal routine to wake up at 6 am.” Terra said her live-in boyfriend left that morning at 5:30 am, and then the baby woke as usual, about 6 am. Terra said she left the baby in his bedroom watching television as usual, and got into the shower at about 6:30 am. “But then she heard a loud thud and left the shower to check her son. She ran out and found him laying on his side, in the living room. He was cradling his arm.” When the boy saw his mom, he jumped up and ran into his room. “So she thought he must be okay; so she got ready as usual to take him to daycare by 7 am,” the cop testified.

Terra said she did not see how the boy got injured, and she offered that maybe he tripped over some steel-toed work boots that were in the bedroom. He was crying and upset, so when Mom brought him to the daycare center, she told the worker that he had fallen. Just 30 minutes later, they phoned her to come get him because “he was in obvious distress.” Terra said that at that moment she was pulling into her place of work in Poway and that she was trying to make an appointment with her regular doctor, but Child Welfare Services told her to take the boy to urgent care.

When Ruiz spoke again with Terra a week later, “She admitted there might be minor discrepancies.” She said this was because she had been so upset when she first spoke to the detective. “Then she admitted she had not been working during those two weeks when these things happened.” When the detective went to speak with Jared, he showed her many photos of bruises on the boy’s body. “More than 200 photos.” During one followup visit with the boy and his father, the cop saw no bruises visible on the boy, but he had a cast on his arm. So the detective and the father carefully lifted his shirt, and she found no bumps nor bruises.

LIVING WITH DAD NOW

After Jared gained custody of his son, he discovered that the boy did not bruise as easily as he had been told. He has had custody for more than a year now. Says Jared, “He is very sweet, he is very outgoing, he is very observant. He ran and played like any other toddler.”

IN COURT

Terra Gene Brinkmeier, now 36, was charged with felony child abuse. Because of the COVID scare, she was not arraigned in court until November 4, 2020, nine months after her son’s arm was fractured. In the Criminal Protective Order keeping her away from her son, Terra is described as a white female, 5 feet 4 inches tall, with red hair and blue eyes. She pleads not guilty, and is at liberty on her own recognizance. During a pre-trial hearing on June 21, 2021, she heard some of the evidence against her. While Jared was in the witness box, the defense attorney demanded to know if Jared was preventing their son from having “video calls” with his mother. Jared replied, “I am not forcing him.” Jared said that if his son says no, he does not force his son to go in front of the camera. He said that a “psych assessment” from Rady’s hospital supports his position.

Prosecutor Patricia Lavermicocca told the judge that Terra Gene Brinkmeier personally inflicted great bodily injury on the boy, and that she was the only person in the house when the child got a severe displaced fracture. The prosecutor said that the boy, now five, no longer gets bruises since he started living with his father. Honorable judge Brad Weinreb denied defense’s pleadings to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor, and set the next court date for August 30, to confirm a trial date.

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Terra, the boy’s mother, turned 31 the month before she gave birth. Both she and Jared have fair skin and red hair; when he was born, the baby’s bright red hair was almost unbelievable.
Terra, the boy’s mother, turned 31 the month before she gave birth. Both she and Jared have fair skin and red hair; when he was born, the baby’s bright red hair was almost unbelievable.

The day the baby boy was born in 2016, the hospital made a call to CPS. “They had them involved since the boy was born,” his father Jared testified in court five years later — after something happened. (Child Protective Services might be called, for example, if a newborn baby tested positive for drugs, although Jared did not say if that was the reason here.) Terra, the boy’s mother, turned 31 the month before she gave birth. Both she and Jared have fair skin and red hair; when he was born, the baby’s bright red hair was almost unbelievable. And his skin is still exceptionally white.

Jared was able to start visiting with his son in early 2018, when the boy was a year and a half old. At first, Jared was allowed to visit only on Sundays from 9 to 5; this was described as “five percent physical custody” by the people who decide these things. Jared and Terra usually met at Starbucks to exchange their toddler. As the weeks and months went by, Jared started noticing bruises on his son. They were all over: on his hips, head, ribs, and shoulder blades. And always on his arms and legs. It seemed like the boy got new bruises before the old bruises finished healing. And he had diaper rash. Jared told Terra about his concerns, but Terra explained those were normal bruises from the toddler bumping into things, and she denied there was any diaper rash. Jared still worried. Eventually, Terra told him to stop asking about the bruises and diaper rash.

Terra Gene Brinkmeier, now 36, was charged with felony child abuse.

In March 2019, Jared made an appointment with his son’s regular doctor; he wanted to take the boy there during one of his Sunday visits. But as it happened, Terra took their son to that doctor before Dad’s appointment, and explained away his concerns. As the months passed, Jared took his son to Rady’s children hospital on three different Sundays. He wanted some answers about the bruises and diaper rash. The hospital did make calls to CPS, because hospital workers are “mandated reporters.” But members the hospital staff were unsure about the cause of the bruises. Finally, in February 2020, father Jared was able to get full custody of his three-year-old son. That was after the hospital found that his boy had a fractured arm.

THE LEARNING

JUNGLE

Early that Thursday, mother Terra took her son to The Learning Jungle in Escondido; she had been taking him to that daycare for a month. Daycare worker Patty remembered that Terra carried her son that morning, and that the petite woman never had carried her big boy before. The worker also noticed that the boy was in distress, which was also not normal for him. After Terra left, Patty noticed the boy was favoring one arm, not using it. When Patty tried to touch the arm, it seemed painful. Eventually, she was able to gently rub it, and she found a bump. So the daycare workers phoned Terra and told her to come back and pick up her son.

Escondido police detective Therese Ruiz has been with Escondido police for 15 years; she has special training in child abuse and has worked in the family protection unit for more than four years.

HOSPITAL

Dr. Premi Suresh is a pediatrician at Rady’s Children Hospital. She has special training in child abuse. Dr. Suresh was aware that Jared had brought his three-year-old to hospital in June 2019 and again the next month. Although the father was concerned about bruising and diaper rash, the doctor explained that a toddler will get bruises on bony exposed areas. Other doctors who had seen the boy described non-specific bruising plus one bruise on the abdomen, which Dr. Suresh described as unusual because it is not a bony spot. The third time Jared brought his boy to Dr. Suresh’s clinic, on February 5, 2020, she saw another bruise on the boy’s abdomen and commented, “Bruising on the abdomen is very unusual.” Plus, she said later, “He also had a bruise on the top of his foot, that’s just a weird place to have a bruise for a toddler.” And “there was bruising on his back.” Because the father was so concerned, Child Welfare Services was contacted, and a report was filed.

Two weeks later, the boy was brought to Palomar Hospital with a fractured right arm. Dr. Suresh said it was a right transverse proximal humerus fracture — “a high-force fracture.” She said, “It is a significant fracture, just because the two pieces are so far apart.” The doctor was told that the boy had tripped over some steel-toed boots, or maybe fallen over some books. But she opined that while such an event might create a wrist or elbow injury, a toddler’s fall from standing height would not typically cause such a fracture. She would expect “a more significant history” — for example, a fall from high monkey bars or jumping from a trampoline. She said, “He had bruising on his other arm as well, on the left arm, on the fleshy portion of his arm. They said it was from getting his blood drawn, but it didn’t seem like that would be where the blood would be drawn.” In the doctor’s memory, the mother made it sound like she was there when it happened, and that maybe her boyfriend was there, too. The boy was first treated at Palomar Hospital, and then transferred to Rady’s Children’s Hospital, because he needed a cast on his arm and Rady’s has a “child pediatric team.”

ESCONDIDO POLICE DETECTIVE

Escondido police detective Therese Ruiz has been with Escondido police for 15 years; she has special training in child abuse and has worked in the family protection unit for more than four years. Ruiz spoke with 34-year-old mother Terra at Rady’s children’s hospital on February 21, 2020. “She was cooperative at that time,” detective Ruiz remembered later, when she testified. There was also a Child Welfare Services worker there at the hospital who had some knowledge of the family, and who spoke with detective Ruiz. The detective said Terra told her she lived with her boyfriend in an apartment in Escondido, and that “it was their normal routine to wake up at 6 am.” Terra said her live-in boyfriend left that morning at 5:30 am, and then the baby woke as usual, about 6 am. Terra said she left the baby in his bedroom watching television as usual, and got into the shower at about 6:30 am. “But then she heard a loud thud and left the shower to check her son. She ran out and found him laying on his side, in the living room. He was cradling his arm.” When the boy saw his mom, he jumped up and ran into his room. “So she thought he must be okay; so she got ready as usual to take him to daycare by 7 am,” the cop testified.

Terra said she did not see how the boy got injured, and she offered that maybe he tripped over some steel-toed work boots that were in the bedroom. He was crying and upset, so when Mom brought him to the daycare center, she told the worker that he had fallen. Just 30 minutes later, they phoned her to come get him because “he was in obvious distress.” Terra said that at that moment she was pulling into her place of work in Poway and that she was trying to make an appointment with her regular doctor, but Child Welfare Services told her to take the boy to urgent care.

When Ruiz spoke again with Terra a week later, “She admitted there might be minor discrepancies.” She said this was because she had been so upset when she first spoke to the detective. “Then she admitted she had not been working during those two weeks when these things happened.” When the detective went to speak with Jared, he showed her many photos of bruises on the boy’s body. “More than 200 photos.” During one followup visit with the boy and his father, the cop saw no bruises visible on the boy, but he had a cast on his arm. So the detective and the father carefully lifted his shirt, and she found no bumps nor bruises.

LIVING WITH DAD NOW

After Jared gained custody of his son, he discovered that the boy did not bruise as easily as he had been told. He has had custody for more than a year now. Says Jared, “He is very sweet, he is very outgoing, he is very observant. He ran and played like any other toddler.”

IN COURT

Terra Gene Brinkmeier, now 36, was charged with felony child abuse. Because of the COVID scare, she was not arraigned in court until November 4, 2020, nine months after her son’s arm was fractured. In the Criminal Protective Order keeping her away from her son, Terra is described as a white female, 5 feet 4 inches tall, with red hair and blue eyes. She pleads not guilty, and is at liberty on her own recognizance. During a pre-trial hearing on June 21, 2021, she heard some of the evidence against her. While Jared was in the witness box, the defense attorney demanded to know if Jared was preventing their son from having “video calls” with his mother. Jared replied, “I am not forcing him.” Jared said that if his son says no, he does not force his son to go in front of the camera. He said that a “psych assessment” from Rady’s hospital supports his position.

Prosecutor Patricia Lavermicocca told the judge that Terra Gene Brinkmeier personally inflicted great bodily injury on the boy, and that she was the only person in the house when the child got a severe displaced fracture. The prosecutor said that the boy, now five, no longer gets bruises since he started living with his father. Honorable judge Brad Weinreb denied defense’s pleadings to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor, and set the next court date for August 30, to confirm a trial date.

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Comments
4

This is a sad, sickening story. Being a new grandparent, again, and looking at the infant, I cannot imagine how such stuff happens, and yet I know that it does, and more than many of us think. At least it now appears that he's in good hands, and can grow up without being constantly bruised and in danger of fractures.

July 30, 2021

This story breaks my heart. On a more positive note, congratulations Visduh.

Aug. 1, 2021

Thank you.

Aug. 1, 2021

Terra Gene Brinkmeier, 36, made a plea deal at her last court appearance, on August 30 2021. She “pled guilty to the sheet,” as lawyers say, admitting all charges and allegations, that is felony child abuse and causing great bodily injury on her own 3 year old son. On the plea deal paperwork she admits, “willfully and unlawfully under circumstances likely to produce great bodily injury injured the person of a child. I personally inflicted great bodily injury on a child under the age of five.” Terra could have gotten twelve years in prison, but in the deal she agrees to 180 days local time, and she might even get CPAC, if she qualifies. That is San Diego County sheriff’s County Parole Alternative Custody system, which is a kind of electronic home confinement, a sort of surveillance program, this supposedly only available if the felony conviction was not serious or violent, intended so the convicted felon can keep her job and only travel to and from work, this also intended to relieve crowding in the jails. The fees paid are not refundable. She will have to submit to chemical tests, and her roommates must be approved in advance, and Terra could be removed from the CPAC program without court order and taken into custody if she is found in violation. The signature of Terra Brinkmeier is not legible on the form. Her defense attorney Adele Lopez and prosecutor Patricia Lavermicocca and judge Michael Washington signed the deal. Her sentencing is set for September 29 at 1:30 pm, in Dept 5 before the same judge who accepted the deal. http://www.sandiegoreader.com/users/p...

Sept. 7, 2021

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