Sitter facing battery charge


GREENFIELD — A baby sitter accused of slapping an infant in her care is now charged with felony battery in addition to neglect.

On Tuesday, prosecutors filed an additional felony charge against Terri Nicole VanAlst after further review of police reports about the incident, which left a 5-month-old girl hospitalized with bruises to her face and a hemorrhage in one eye, court records state.

VanAlst was charged with neglect, a Level 5 felony, on Nov. 18. After a review of police reports, which detail marks on the baby that “resembled an adult-sized finger,” prosecutors said they think VanAlst struck the child. They decided to file an additional charge, one count of Level 5 felony battery, according to Marie Castetter, chief deputy prosecutor.

The incident occurred Nov. 11, when VanAlst, 24, was baby-sitting several small children in her Greenfield home.

VanAlst admitted to investigators she stepped outside to smoke a cigarette on the day the baby was injured but denied knowing how she was hurt, according to court documents.

Doctors who examined the baby told police they didn’t believe her injuries were accidental, noting the bruising on her face “appeared to be caused by a hand,” police reports state.

VanAlst told police she heard a bloodcurdling scream while she was outside, and when she ran inside, she found the baby on the floor, crying and “getting red around her left eye,” court documents state.

VanAlst told police she thought one of the other children fell on the baby or dropped her while VanAlst was outside, charging documents state.

Greenfield police Sgt. Ron Chittum, the lead detective, said VanAlst’s story about what happened to the child changed several times. And he said he doesn’t buy VanAlst’s story that the child was hurt after she walked away.

“I don’t think she walked away in time,” he said. “I think she lost her temper. I think she snapped. I think as soon as she started seeing marks, she (realized) she hit the baby harder than she thought, and that’s when she started reacting.”

VanAlst called the baby’s mother at work but couldn’t reach her; another company employee told her to take the baby to an immediate care center, court records state.

There, doctors decided to send the baby to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis for more specialized testing in the hospital’s acute care unit.

VanAlst, who was released from Hancock County Jail on Friday after posting a $1,500 bond, told police she “cares deeply for (the child) and she would not hurt her,” court records state.

VanAlst said the baby always screams while in her care, but “if (VanAlst) does get angry that she steps outside and smokes a cigarette,” court records state.