A Mercer County grand jury returned a three-count indictment this week charging a Ewing Township police officer and his wife in the December 2018 death of their three-month-old daughter, Hailey.
Daniel Bannister, 31, was indicted on one count of first-degree murder. Catherine Bannister, 29, was indicted on one count of second-degree reckless manslaughter. The husband and wife were additionally indicted on one count of second-degree endangering the welfare of a child, according to the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office.
On December 5 of 2018, Ewing Township Emergency Medical Services responded to the Bannister’s Ewing home on a 911 call for an unresponsive three-month-old baby who was having difficulty breathing. Emergency medical technicians assessed the baby, who was not breathing and was in cardiac arrest. The baby, later identified as Hailey Bannister, was transported to the Capital Health Medical Center in Hopewell, where medical personnel determined that she suffered a fractured skull, a brain bleed, and multiple fractured ribs. Hailey was listed in critical condition and transferred from Capital Health to Robert Wood Johnson Children’s Hospital in New Brunswick.
Due to the suspicious nature of Hailey’s injuries, the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office Special Victims Unit and Homicide Task Force were contacted. Detectives responded to Robert Wood Johnson Children’s Hospital and began their investigation on December 5. After several days of hospitalization, Hailey died on December 11.
An autopsy was conducted in December by the Middlesex County Medical Examiner’s Office. Following additional testing, analysis of medical documentation, and a forensic review, Hailey’s death was ruled a homicide. It was concluded that Hailey’s cause of death was complications from blunt impact trauma of the head that included skull fractures and subdural hemorrhage.
The nature of Hailey’s injuries indicated an ongoing pattern of abuse, according to the medical examiner. Some of the child’s skull fractures and four rib fractures showed signs of healing, indicating multiple impact incidents on different dates. The autopsy also found that the baby had suffered a traumatic shaking incident. According to court records, after Hailey was found unresponsive her father suggested that she might have been accidentally injured by her toddler brother. The baby’s mother, Catherine Bannister, suspected her husband might have been hurting Hailey two months before the her death and texted him about it, but she did not report the abuse to police.