Police: Barry Co. toddler likely injured on bus

Kent County

WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — A toddler with special needs, whose first day of school ended with a trip to the emergency room, was likely injured on her bus ride home, according to investigators involved in the case.

The Barry County Sheriff’s Department and the Wyoming Department of Public Safety examined bite marks and scratches left on Lauren Hayes at the end of August.

Her parents, Brian and Nancy Hayes, contacted News 8 after feeling they weren’t getting answers on who caused her injuries.

She was diagnosed with autism over the summer and is nonverbal, so the 3-year-old can’t communicate what happened to her.

“The overwhelming likelihood is this occurred on the bus and in all likelihood, was child on child, unfortunately,” Wyoming Capt. James Maguffee told News 8 Tuesday. “We feel reasonably certain no one committed a crime in this case and that’s a good thing, I think, but we can’t change the fact that this little child was injured and that shouldn’t have happened.”

Wyoming investigators initially determined the injuries did not happen within city limits. Further investigation in Barry County sent the investigation back to Wyoming.

“There’s so many cases where, at the end of the day, we wish we had a crystal ball and we just don’t,” Maguffee added. “I can tell you that even though the time that this takes is frustrating for everybody involved, we hope that, that speaks to the thoroughness and the seriousness with which we take these sorts of investigations. Indications are that any scenario of this happening outside of the bus is highly unlikely. That’s probably the best way I can characterize it.”

The other two children on the bus also have special needs, which plays a role in conducting an investigation.

“Normally that bus has video. It didn’t operate correctly that day. We’ve had professionals take a look at all of that and it’s going to come up a zero, unfortunately.” Maguffee said. “That would’ve helped tremendously and yes, as you correctly pointed out, you’re dealing with young children. That’s a challenge in and of itself and now you combine that with special needs. It just makes it more difficult.”

STRAWBERRY BLONDE HAIR FOUND ON THE BUS

News 8 obtained a copy of the related report generated by Child Protective Services, who also investigated the incident. 

A few days after News 8’s initial story, the Barry County detective on the case and a Thornapple Kellogg’s bus garage employee met with CPS. TK provided the bus that day.

The employee got on the bus after the driver finished the route Lauren was on that day, according to the report.

The CPS report read in part:

“She noticed 10-20 strands of strawberry blonde hair on the seat. She reported, she observed the hair in the aisle seat and pointed to where Lauren was sitting. (She) reported she did not talk about it because she knows there are cameras on the bus. She reported once she saw the article on WOOD TV8. She realized it was the same incident.”

News 8 contacted TK’s superintendent about the report and to request any additional comment on the incident or subsequent changes with the bus system. 

“We have shared all the known information surrounding this issue with local law enforcement,” the superintendent replied in an email.

Meanwhile, Lauren’s parents have tried to get her in therapy to help with the traumatic event. They noticed behavioral changes after the incident but are now facing obstacles with the financial aspect of therapy.

An Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapist was recommended after going to an appointment, but the Hayes’ insurance won’t cover it.

“They said it was too high to even try to do it out of pocket,” Nancy Hayes told News 8.

Brian Hayes said they make too much to qualify for any assistance as well, so for now they’re stuck balancing getting their daughter help and what they can reasonably afford.

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