COLDWATER, Mich. (WOOD) — The February death of an infant first blamed on an accident is under investigation by Coldwater police.
Luna Royer-King was 5 months old when she died at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor on Feb. 14, two days after she reportedly fell from a swing.
But hospital records obtained by 24 Hour News 8 show she had suffered at least nine broken ribs, described as “fractures of differing age” in her short life, along with a broken left elbow.
An MRI found “worsening cerebral edema,” or water on the brain, often associated with abusive head trauma.
“Findings are consistent with child abuse,” doctors at Mott wrote in a medical report.
The baby’s mother and grandmother described her as a “snuggler” who had just started crawling.
“She was a very happy girl. A little bit sassy sometimes. I loved it,” said her mom, Ashley King, 23. “But overall, she was a very happy baby.”
Ashley King told 24 Hour News 8 that she was at her mom’s house on Feb. 12 and had left her baby for about three hours with the child’s father, her boyfriend, 28-year-old Coleman Royer, at the home they shared in Coldwater. Her mom was out of town, she said.
“He called me and he told me, ‘Hey, Luna just fell out of her swing,'” Ashley King said. “The next sentence out of his mouth is, ‘Where are you?'”
When she got home a few minutes later, Luna seemed fine to her, she said.
Ashley King sent a video of Luna to her mom.
“She’s a first-time mom,” said Ashley King’s mom, Ginny King. “She doesn’t necessarily know what’s normal and what’s not, and I’ve raised five now.
“I called her right away because I knew what I was seeing on that video was not a normal response to being in the swing. It was not a normal baby action.”
By that time, the couple had taken Luna to the local emergency room. The next morning, she was transferred to Mott in Ann Arbor.
“The doctors at U of M have repeatedly stated that her injuries were not anywhere near consistent with a fall out of a swing,” her grandmother said. “She had no injuries at all consistent with a fall out of a swing. She had multiple broken bones, she had brain bleed, seven brain bleeds.”
Nurses told them Luna wouldn’t survive, they said.
“When they did the test (scan of her brain), they told me we can’t declare her dead right now, but she’s not coming back,” her mom said.
“We really just spent the next two days waiting for the inevitable,” Luna’s grandmother said.
The family donated her organs.
“It was horrible, to watch her suffer, to know what had been done to her wasn’t an accident, to know she wasn’t ever coming home. I was never going to get to hold her again, I was never going to get to listen to her giggle,” said Ginny King.
Royer told 24 Hour News 8 he was with Luna when she fell from the swing, but that she was fine when he left her with her mom to play basketball.
He denied any involvement in her death and says the mom and grandmother keep changing their stories.
“They’re treating everybody as a suspect,” Royer said of police. “That’s how that goes. They have to if there’s a child’s death.”
When asked about the broken bones, he said: “I’ll be honest with you, I can’t tell you where that comes from. I just can’t. I have no idea.”
His attorney, Lisa Kirsch Satawa, sent 24 Hour News 8 a statement.
“This matter is still under investigation,” she wrote. “It is unknown what cause or causes contributed to the death of this sweet child. It is also unknown who is responsible for the unexplained injuries she sustained. Luna lived in the care of her mother and father as well as many extended family members. It is premature to guess who is responsible for Luna’s injuries and death. Everyone in her life remains suspect.
“At one point, Luna accidentally fell out her swing in the care of her father,” she wrote. “This is not the cause of her injuries and it is unknown if it is a contributing factor. Coleman Royer did not harm his daughter. He is a loving, compassionate, caring parent who misses her dearly and agonizes over the question of who hurt her. “
Coldwater police said they are investigating the death with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and plan to turn over their findings to the Branch County prosecutor.