Father convicted of assault of infant

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WALLA WALLA — An area man has been convicted of assaulting his infant daughter by fracturing her skull early this year.

Following a Superior Court trial that began Tuesday, the jury early Friday afternoon found Alan R. Hackney, 21, guilty of the crime of second-degree assault of a child — domestic violence.

He faces a standard-range prison term of 31-41 months when he’s sentenced later. He remains free pending his sentencing hearing.

The eight-man four-woman jury deliberated a total of about 3½ hours Thursday afternoon and Friday before reaching its unanimous decision.

Hackney was open-mouthed when the verdict was read at 1:10 p.m. His attorney, Richard Wernette, said in an interview, “I’m very surprised.”

Wernette didn’t know if Hackney would appeal.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Michelle Mulhern told the Union-Bulletin she was “satisfied with the jury’s verdict and that justice was served.”

Hackney was convicted of intentionally assaulting Sophia J. Hackney at their residence at 2107 Granite Drive on Jan. 4. Sophia, who was 1-month-old at the time, reportedly has made a full recovery.

Mulhern said in an interview she believes, based on the injuries Sophia received, that Hackney grabbed his child by the throat because she was crying, gave her a shake, and the back of her head contacted a hard surface of some kind.

The defense didn’t dispute at trial that Hackney injured his daughter by dropping her, but claimed it was an unintentional tragic accident.

Hackney reportedly told the jury he accidentally dropped Sophia when he was in the process of moving her from a changing table to a blanket on the carpeted floor. He said he had her in one hand when she fell.

After Hackney and Sophia’s mother, Robyn Herald, took Sophia to Walla Walla General Hospital the day she was hurt, personnel there found that bones in the baby’s skull had been fractured. She was transferred to Providence Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital in Spokane.

During a subsequent interview with Walla Walla police Detective Marcus Goodwater, Hackney reportedly said he remembered dropping Sophia on the floor when he was changing her diaper, but the drop was only from about a foot above a carpeted area.

After Goodwater confronted Hackney further, he admitted, “It was a hard drop,” according to Goodwater’s report filed in court.

Hackney explained that Sophia had been crying, he was frustrated and tired, but said he dropped her accidentally.

Goodwater’s report says Hackney later admitted “he lost control over his frustrations and threw Sophia hard to the floor.”

But Wernette maintained Hackney made no such admission.

Two pediatricians from Sacred Heart testified at trial that the baby’s injuries were “non-accidental in nature,” and a third said they were “the result of abusive injuries,” according to Mulhern.

But local neurologist Dr. Toomas Eisler testified for the defense.

He reviewed Sophia’s medical records and concluded in a report her injuries were consistent with being dropped because fractured skull bones in someone so young require minimal force.

“On a more probable than not basis the medical record findings of injury are inconsistent with the force associated with the act of throwing an infant against the floor or other object,” Eisler wrote.

After Sophia was discharged from Sacred Heart, she was returned to Walla Walla. Child Protective Services became involved in the case.

Hackney has been allowed supervised visits with his daughter.

Terry McConn can be reached at terrymcconn@wwub.com or 526-8319.

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