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Man charged in baby's death

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Cause of death -- severe blunt force trauma

A rural Mammoth Spring man was charged with capital murder in the death of a 17-month-old child in Cherokee Village just one week after the child's death.

Sharp County authorities charged Shane Buckshot Haggins, 30, April 14 for his alleged part in the April 7 death of Lauren Rutledge.

Officers transported Haggins from the Fulton County Jail, where he had been incarcerated on a parole violation since April 8, to the Sharp County Jail April 14. He is being held without bond.

Dr. Charles P. Kokes of the Arkansas State Crime Lab issued preliminary findings of Rutledge's autopsy on April 10 and determined she died of craniocerebral injuries, said Special Agent Wendall Jines of the Arkansas State Police.

The cause of the death has been determined to be caused by severe blunt force trauma with depressed fractures to the back of her skull, linear fractures to her frontal skull, partial disarticulation of the atlanto-occcipital joint and multiple acute superficial blunt force injuries, according to Kokes' report. He suspects the injuries were inflicted to the child a short time before her death, most likely during the minutes she spent with Haggins while her mother drove her siblings to school, Jines wrote in his arrest affidavit.

The child's mother, Casey Elliott Rutledge, had originally been named as a "person of interest" in the homicide investigation along with Haggins, who allegedly stayed at the Rutledge home the night of April 6. After lengthy interviews with Rutledge, her children, her mother and her sister, police found Haggins as the likely perpetrator, Jines said.

While officers think the guilty man is now behind bars, they don't know details of what caused Lauren's death.

"We haven't heard anything further from the crime lab," said Sgt. Stan Witt of the Arkansas State Police. "What's in the affidavit is what we know so far. We only know what was on the preliminary report."

Officers arrested Mrs. Rutledge April 13 for public drug intoxication, a misdemeanor, after causing a disturbance at Heath Funeral Home during Lauren's visitation, Sharp County Sheriff Dale Weaver said. She admitted to deputies she had used methamphetamine that day, the same day as Lauren's visitation, he said. Deputies escorted her to Lauren's funeral April 14.

After failing to post a $500 cash bond, she remained in jail until April 17 when her family admitted her to a drug rehabilitation center.

Haggins came to the home April 6 and stayed the night with Rutledge on the living room sofa, Rutledge told police. The next morning Haggins watched Lauren and her 7-month-old brother while Rutledge and another daughter took the oldest two children to school after Haggins refused to do so, the affidavit said.

When Rutledge was on her way home around 8:20 a.m. she met Haggins coming from her home driving his mother's car, she told police. He told her he had to go to work, she said.

"She told him she wanted to be single and he stated, 'OK, just forget I was here,'" Jines wrote in the arrest affidavit.

It wasn't until Rutledge went to feed her 7-month-old that she noticed something was wrong -- Lauren wasn't breathing, Jines said.

Rutledge called the children's father, John Rutledge, and told him Lauren was dead, Jines said. She then called 9-1-1, which reached Fulton County although the home on Tonto Circle lies in Sharp County, he said.

Officers and emergency personnel arrived at the home soon after and began trying to resuscitate Lauren. She was pronounced dead at Fulton County Hospital at 10:40 a.m.

The children back up their mother's story and told DHS personnel, who took custody of the other four children, "Shane killed Lauren" and "Shane threw her on the ground," the affidavit said.

Haggins disputed Rutledge's story in his interview with police April 10. He told investigators he left the Rutledge home April 6 between 9:30 and 10 p.m. and arrived at the home he shares with his wife around midnight, Jines said. He said he never returned to Rutledge's home and denied watching the children or having any involvement in Lauren's death, he said.

Further interviews by police reveal that Haggins was not at his home the night of April 6, Jines said, but did not return to his home until after 9 a.m. April 7, he said.

Haggins has a history of violence toward children. The Phillips County Circuit Court convicted him Sept. 22, 2000, of second degree battery to an 18-month-old boy. The boy suffered numerous injuries including internal bleeding, a skull fracture, a lacerated liver, and facial, head, neck and back injuries, Jines said. Haggins received a six-year sentence but was released on parole in April 2001.

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