A Nebraska mom faces a charge with child abuse resulting in death in the death of her toddler son, joining her boyfriend who was charged with the same crime earlier this week.
Brittany Cook, 31, appeared in court on Wednesday for an arraignment. She was given a $1 million bond, according to KOLN. Her boyfriend, 32-year-old Josh Tackett was arrested on March 14 on gun charges, but he was charged with the child’s death on Sunday, after the 22-month-old boy died last Friday, as CrimeOnline reported.
Cook told police that she put her son down for a nap on March 12 and couldn’t wake him when she returned three hours later. She took him to a hospital in Lincoln, but he was transported to Children’s Hospital in Omaha for a higher level of care. She also told investigators that she’d begun noticing injuries on the boy after she began dating Tackett, who is not the boy’s father, in January.
The truth, police said, was different.
Court documents say that a Children’s Hospital doctor reported the child’s injuries were “non-accidental and consistent with multiple incidents of abuse” and that he had severe brain bleeding and swelling, hemorrhaging in the eyes, broken ribs, injuries in the genital area, a broken shinbone, and other injuries, according to KOLN.
Doctors determined the child’s brain activity had ceased on March 15 and removed him from life support on Friday.
The court documents cover at least one incident in which Tackett reportedly told Cook he passed out and fell on top of the boy, injuring his leg. Cook did not seek medical treatment for the injury, which resulted in the toddler being unable to put weight on the leg. The documents also report on other instances in which the mother failed to seek medical treatment for the child’s injuries, according to the Journal Star.
Cook came home from running errands, having left the boy with Tackett, on March 11 — the day before she brought him to the hospital — and found him in his Pack n Play, bleeding onto a blanket with a gash on the back of his head. A front tooth was missing.
Instead of taking him for treatment, Cook and Tackett left him in the care of her other children — ages 3, 4, and 10 — and went to a casino. When they returned early in the morning on March 12, Cook again left the boy — now sleeping on a hallway floor — with Tackett while she went out for fast food. When she returned, Tackett had put the boy in his crib. Cook showered and went to bed.
She found him face down in the crib at 5 a.m. but went back to bed. Six hours later, she awoke and this time found the boy “lifeless,” the documents say.
For several hours, she tried to rouse him, bouncing on her bed while holding him and even taking a cold shower with him. At 4 p.m., she finally took him to a hospital, over Tackett’s objection.
Hospital staff called police immediately, and investigators began surveilling Tackett’s apartment. The surveillance led to the arrest of Tackett’s mother, who came to the apartment at about 7 p.m. and removed a rifle case containing a Ruger AR .556 rifle — which Tackett was not allowed to have as a convicted felon. Investigators later found a shotgun in the apartment as well, leading to the gun charges. Tackett’s mother, Karen Vestecka, was also arrested and charged with tampering with evidence.
Tackett was later found hiding at a relatives home and was arrested on weapons charges.
After adding the child abuse charge Friday, Tackett was given a $2 million bail. Both Cook and Tackett are due back in court on April 20. Cook has been ordered to have no contact with children, and her other three children have been placed in state custody.
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[Featured image: Brittany Cook, left, and Josh Tackett/Lancaster County Jail]