A mother of a toddler expected to die after a severe brain injury caused by a babysitter says she’s sharing her story in hopes other parents understand child abuse is not only real, but can be caused by someone who’s close to the family.
“It’s not just some random person. It can be someone you’ve known your whole life. It could be a family member,” Ashley England said, mother of now 18-month-old Landon.
According to court documents, in the summer of 2016, Caleb Collins was watching then 7-month-old Landon. England told 9NEWS that Collins’ wife watched Landon before. Landon’s dad knew Collins since they were 12 or 13; the two went to the same church at one time.
“I never, I would've never thought at all,” England told 9NEWS, “I've seen him with his child, with his wife, very loving, caring compassionate.”
In his police interview, Collins told investigators what he did while watching Landon.
“He admitted to my partner, that he grabbed Landon by his face and threw him down on the ground and it caused him to double flip prior to smashing his head on the ground,” said Fort Collins police detective Jacklyn Shaklee. “The reason that Mr. Collins did that is because Landon was crawling toward a PlayStation cord and he didn't want the play station to be pulled off the shelf.”
England said doctors thought at one point that Landon wouldn’t survive his injuries.
“At the hospital, in the beginning the doctors were even talking about the withdrawal of care, to let him go,” she said. “That was not an option in this world.”
Doctors expected Landon would likely never see, hear or have purposeful movement again.
But now 18 months old, he’s defied their expectations and defied what medicine knows about severe brain injury.
“Doctors don't know what he'll be able to do,” England said. “He's doing amazing for everything that he's been through and everything that's happened.”
Landon should be walking and crawling at his age. He’s not there yet, says his mom. But he’s rolling, babbling, and can see, after being blind for several months.
“He’s super fun,” England said. “He wants to talk right now. He has lots of energy.”
Landon’s injury sparked a friendship between England and Shaklee.
“It’s possible that’s why I’m so connected to this family, is because I can’t wrap my head around it,” Shaklee said. “My head will never understand it. My hearts’ kind of taken over, makes me want to be a part of their lives.”
Both are hoping that talking about child abuse, either sparks or continues conversation in the community about its harsh reality and how to prevent it.
“I think a lot of people stick their head in the sand and think stuff like this doesn't happen,” Shaklee said. “Yes it does.”
“It’s not like some stranger you don’t know, it’s not like it’s somebody at a daycare center you don’t know,” England said. “I just want to help other people and raise awareness.”
After a nearly year-long court process, Collins pleaded guilty and was recently sentenced to 18 years in prison.