Mother of injured child finds it hard to forgive
Nearly four years to the day after she was assaulted by a babysitter and left with lasting injuries, a Medford girl and her family gained a small measure of closure Friday after her attacker was sentenced to more than six years in prison.
Medford resident Alicia Marie Gunn, 29, was sentenced in Jackson County Circuit Court after pleading guilty to a felony charge of second-degree assault, admitting that she caused serious injuries to a then-7-month-old baby in 2017.
A former friend of the child’s mother, Gunn initially claimed that she dropped the baby after a feeding, but medical evidence indicated violent shaking occurred, causing seizures, brain injuries and retinal hemorrhages, according to documents filed by the Jackson County District Attorney’s office in October.
In a statement read into the court record by the victim’s mother, the assault forever altered the life of the young girl and her family. She recalled getting a phone call at work after paramedics rushed her daughter to Providence Medford Medical Center.
In her statement the mother recounted the trauma of finding out that her baby was in cardiac arrest, “hooked up to a bunch of cords, tubes and being told she was needing to be life-flighted to Portland due to possible brain damage,” said the mother. Making matters worse for the girl, the mother said she was initially suspected of injuring her daughter.
“Halfway to Portland, I had received a phone call stating I was not allowed to see my baby, who was actively seizing every 30 minutes, due to possible concerns of prior injury,” the mother said.
“My heart stopped, my entire life had been literally ripped away from me within a matter of hours. Come to find out it had all happened at the hands of someone else, someone I thought I could trust.”
She added, “On day 5, I had gotten a phone call stating the X-rays had been incorrectly read and I could be with my daughter. I cannot recall if it was before or after I got to see her that (the detective) informed me of the most heart-wrenching, fist-clenching news. Based off images of (the child’s) brain and symptoms, they believed her to have been a victim of being shaken by Alicia Gunn and then dropped.”
Initially given a 20% chance of survival, the girl, who will soon turn 5, still has developmental delays, damage in several parts of the brain and suffers from cortical blindness. While initially feared she would not be able to sit up or speak or walk, after multiple brain and eye surgeries, she is able to do all those things in some capacity.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Terry Smith-Norton said prosecutors, after a hung jury in mid-July, hoped to retry the case and push for a longer prison term. But the family, Smith-Norton said, favored resolution after four years of delays ranging from COVID restrictions to a failure to appear on Gunn’s part in May.
“It’s kind of been an odyssey for everyone involved, especially the mother. Ultimately, we had to honor the feelings of the mother in this case, which was that if we could resolve it, she wanted to resolve it so that she could try to move on in some way. Her child has all kinds of developmental delays related to this assault, so the mother is dealing with that and the other children,” Smith-Norton said.
“When they came back with their verdict July 19, and it was a hung jury with 11 guilty and one not guilty, we received lots of emails and messages from the jurors who were very frustrated by one of the folks who hung the jury. … I get people are frustrated and wish we had gotten a life sentence, but that was never on the table. We would’ve been happy to continue trying this for unanimous guilty verdict on Assault 1, but we had to take into account the impact this was all having on the child and the parent after four years.”
The victim’s mother, via her statement, said forgiveness, due to Gunn’s demeanor in court, subsequent drug charges and a previous request to simply dismiss the case, had been difficult despite her daughter having had “her life totally ripped away from her,” but she was ready to focus on healing.
“After all these years, after accepting what life had become ... and never getting to see or hear or fully understanding the exact details of what had happened, never hearing what Alicia has felt … I had to prepare my heart and my mind to face someone who felt remorse, own the mistake, possibly I would have to forgive this woman for this terrible act,” said the mother.
“Unfortunately due to recent events of Alicia's demeanor, and the way she has seemed to appear with no remorse. After seeing and hearing all the pieces of this puzzle finally put together … I am finding myself having a difficult time wanting to forgive this woman.”
Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at firstname.lastname@example.org.