Savannah Humphrey

Savannah Humphrey

Crime: Child Abuse

On June 12, 2013, 3-month-old Evianna Burke of Clarksville, Tennessee, nearly died. She’d started the day a happy, healthy, cooing baby as evidenced by the video her babysitter had recorded at 12:45 pm. At 2:03 pm 9-1-1 was called, and minutes later emergency workers were working vigorously to save her life. She was cool to the touch and not breathing at that point.

So what the hell happened between 12:45 and 2:03 that day? Hell happened, that’s what. Baby Evianna was put through absolute hell.

Lelia Burke, Evianna’s mother, had chosen a family member to babysit her precious infant while she was at work. That family member was her cousin, Savannah Humphrey. She seemed to be the ideal choice. She was the mother of 2 young children and as a teen she’d shown much patience and caring when dealing with a special needs person.

By June 12, 2013, Savannah Humphrey had already been babysitting Evianna for a couple of weeks. Everything seemed just fine — that is until Lelia Burke received a panicky call from her cousin’s husband saying Evianna wasn’t breathing and was in Gateway Medical Center.

I cannot imagine what Lelia Burke went through to see her precious baby on a stretcher with tubes down her throat, bruises on her forehead and arm, and her little hand twitching. It must have been hell for her.

Cousin Savannah Humphrey did not go to Gateway Medical Center or to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital where the baby was transferred. She stayed away.

Lelia Burke did manage to contact her cousin by phone, and no doubt she needed answers. Doctors had already informed her that whatever happened to Evianna it wasn’t an accident. How absolutely devastated the poor woman must have been then.

On the phone Savannah Humphrey told Lelia Burke she’d fed Evianna, laid her down, and then Evianna had thrown up. As she wiped up the vomit, Savannah Humphrey continued, she’d noticed the baby wasn’t breathing so she called 9-1-1.

That story, you may notice, didn’t explain the bruising on the baby’s head and arm. It didn’t explain why Evianna was suffering seizures, bleeding to the brain, a skull fracture, retinal hemorrhaging and severe neurological damage. It didn’t explain why the baby was unresponsive and on a ventilator.

Savannah Humphrey later texted Lelia Burke and told her a new story: that her 2-year-old had picked the baby up and dropped her. She said the baby appeared fine but 20 minutes later she’d stopped breathing. She apologized and said she and her 2-year-old would have to live with it for the rest of their lives.

So that’s two very different versions of events. It turns out Savannah Humphrey had more stories she told to different people at different times. Hmmmm.

The story told by neighbour Ciara Jenkins is she and Savannah Humphrey had met up outside her Peachers Mill apartment that afternoon. They smoked a cigarette, chatted about their horoscopes and played on their phones while leaving the children untended inside the apartment. After a while the 4-year-old tapped on the window to get their attention and the two women went inside the apartment. They saw the 2-year-old trying mightily to hold the unconscious baby whose clothes were soiled with vomit. At that point Savannah Humphrey told Ciara Jenkins to call 9-1-1 while she performed CPR on Evianna.

What puzzled Ciara Jenkins greatly was that Savannah Humphrey did not tell the police precisely what had happened. She was so perturbed about the story she heard Savannah Humphrey tell the police that she texted her a few times. She asked, “What happened?” and got the reply, “I don’t know…” She later texted, “We need to talk really!” but Savannah Humphrey deleted it.

So what did Savannah Humphrey tell the police? She told lead detective Tyler Barrett that she laid the baby down for a nap in a bassinet next to the couch, then heard the baby coughing and noticed the baby had spit up. As she wiped the baby’s mouth she noticed Evianna wasn’t breathing. She then fetched her neighbour, Ciara Jenkins, who called 9-1-1.

Detective Barrett wasn’t satisfied with that story so he pressed her for more. She told him that before she videotaped the baby she’d found her 2-year-old holding the baby, and that Evianna was crying because she’d been dropped. The baby seemed fine so she fed her, played with her and laid her down for a nap. Twenty minutes later the baby began coughing and stopped breathing.

Detective Barrett still wasn’t satisfied — he knew the doctors had found a fractured skull. When he told Savannah Humphrey about that, she finally told them what they’d already heard from Ciara Jenkins. She told about the smoke break, and seeing the 2-year-old holding the unconscious baby. She then postulated that her toddler had dropped and injured the baby.

The trouble with blaming the toddler is that the injuries were way too severe to be caused from a short drop to the floor. Dr. Verena Brown, a child abuse pediatrician specialist at Vanderbilt, said the amount of force necessary to cause such damage would have been the equivalent of a car accident.

Evianna BurkeAnd what was the damage? Evianna did survive but she’ll never be normal. She is blind, has cerebral palsy, and is very delayed in her development. She cannot crawl, sit up, or speak. She has to be bottle-fed. She will require 24-hour care for the rest of her life. She is also prone to bronchitis and pneumonia which results in frequent visits to the hospital.

How absolutely heartbreaking and devastating that all is.

Savannah Humphrey was charged with aggravated child abuse and aggravated child neglect. She went to trial in August 2014 and pled not guilty. Her attorney, Jeffrey Grimes, argued that she was outside taking a smoke break when the baby was injured, and she wasn’t responsible for the harm done to Evianna.

“It was a smoke break,” Jeffrey Grimes said. “Maybe it was too long. It’s not like she left the baby in the car in the heat or she left the baby in the car while she went to the car. It was a mistake.”

The state assistant district attorney, Kimberly Lund, argued that a 2-year-old was incapable of causing the severe injuries. She also talked about the various stories told by the defendant.

“There was only one story for Evianna,” Kimberly Lund said in her closing argument. “No matter how many times I tell the story, I hope something will change, but it won’t because it’s not a story. It’s not a fairy tale. There is a baby neurologically devastated for the rest of her life. Nothing about the way the story ends can be changed.”

On August 27, 2014, the jury found Savannah Humphrey guilty of aggravated child abuse and aggravated child neglect – both Class A felonies.

At the sentencing hearing Lelia Burke said, ” … I will never get to see my child get married or have kids because Savannah took that from us. My child will never see me or her sister. I pray one day she will walk, talk or sit up on her own. At this time, all I can do is hold her.

“The past 15 months have been the worst of our lives. I struggle every day to deal with what has happened to my child, and it hurts past my soul. I cry every night to sleep. I have to look at my baby in the face every day and be reminded of what happened on June 12, 2013. It tore my heart up to see my family get torn apart even more.”

Lelia Burke, being a much more generous human being than I am, went on to say, “Savannah, you are my cousin and I love you very much. We grew up together and I trusted you, and you broke that trust. I hope one day you will be able to tell what happened, or at least see it from Evianna’s view. Her life has changed, as well as mine, in so many ways. I don’t know how much time I have with her. I thank God for every day she wakes up. I always said my kids would bury me first, but in this case, it may not happen this way … I would like to tell Savannah I love you and forgive you, but cannot forget what happened on June 12, 2013.”

Savannah Humphrey offered the court a tearful statement of her own. “I’m sorry for everything that’s happened. I can’t change it. I pray for everyone that’s involved. Thank you to my family for the support and love during this time. Lelia, I’m sorry you trusted me and I broke that trust. It’s something I can never take back and I’m sorry. I pray for Evianna and you every day. I’m sorry.”

In October 2014 Savannah Humphrey, 26, was sentenced to 20 years in prison. That’s a long time for her to think about that ghastly hour that nearly killed a precious baby girl and destroyed any chance of any of them living a normal life.

I wish all the best to Evianna and her family. The hell that began on that fateful day will probably never end for them.

I also wish all the best to Savannah Humphrey’s children. Growing up without a mother is bad enough — being blamed for nearly killing a baby is worse.

I don’t know precisely what Savannah Humphrey did to Evianna, if she shook her, slapped her, kicked her or punched her. I don’t know why Evianna was attacked. But what was done to that baby was evil.

Savannah Humphrey is lucky that Evianna lived through the abuse or she’d be a murderer. I hope that this baby beating abuser spends the entire sentence behind bars. Until she owns up to her actions she doesn’t deserve parole.

The Leaf Chronicle article – trial
Tennessean article – verdict
The Leaf Chronicle article – sentencing

15 Responses to Savannah Humphrey

  1. bulldoggy says:

    Blaming her youngest child is nasty. A two year old is what? Twenty to thirty pounds? And a three month old baby is maybe fifteen? And she wants us to believe that toddler managed to drop the baby from a height and with enough force to break her skull. The bitch needs to confess so her child won’t live with the blame or the guilt.

  2. moodymagic says:

    How can a mother blame her 2 year old for for the damage caused to a baby? This coward does need to stay in prison forever. Savannah is very lucky the baby survived.

  3. Rhonda says:

    I think what she did is worse than murder. She should be blinded, paralyzed, and operated on in such a way that she is rendered unable to handle solid foods and has to be tube fed for the rest of her life. If she agreed to those terms and served a 20 year sentence, then I’d say maybe a chance at parole and discharge to a bed in a nursing home. But release from prison any sooner than that or under any less harsh terms and conditions – not a chance! She deserves nothing less than to suffer at least every bit as bad as what she has made that child endure, suffer, feel.

  4. 2cute says:

    Lelia Burke sounds like an awesome person. If it were me I couldn’t forgive the person who nearly killed my child. I hope the Burke family gets all the help they need, financial and otherwise, to take care of Evianna. Too bad Savannah Humphrey can’t be made to help pay their medical bills.

  5. cecelia says:

    This baby beating bitch kinda looks like skanky casey anthony…
    may she (they) rot in hell…

  6. Michelle says:

    I have to wonder if she was doing something stupid with the baby (throwing her up in the air or dangling her in “play”) and dropped the baby on her head. Something so stupid and irresponsible she was too embarrassed to admit, and so blamed it on the only one there immature enough that he wouldn’t draw suspicion: the 2-year-old. Luckily he is so young he won’t remember his mom blaming him. Hopefully the rest of the family has enough common sense to not let on to his mom’s “indescretion”. No need for him to ever know.

    Whether it was evil or pure stupidity, Evianna is the one who will suffer for the rest of her life, and Savannah deserves whatever she gets.

  7. April Late' says:

    I just came upon this site. My daughter was sexual abused when she was 48 months old. My sitter brought her boyfriend and her brother. They held a gun to my little girl’s head and either got her or tried get a BJ from her.After they got finished with her. The babysitter gave some cough medicine. I was at school when this happened. I had phoned and phoned. The line was always busy. It was winter Dec. I ran out to catch my bus. Walked into house. Found my daughter on the couch naked. Ran and covered her up. She was ice cold. Our grandma neibor was there. I had asked her what she doing.She said she came and got me ,turning her head towards the sitter. I looked at the sitter and said we better get her dress before the ambulance gets here. She just looks at me.I asked her if she had phoned the ambulance.She just looked at me with this stupid look on her face. I went over to the phone hit the wall and said to the sitter did you not see the fucking note. When the ambulance got there they took her to St. Paul’s Hosp. They asked me to leave the room. When I was allowed back in. The first thing she said to me mommy I’m okay. I thought to myself why would a little girl say this. I had asked her if the sitter had given her cough. She said she did, but mommy she used a big spoon. I asked her were it was. She told me she had thrown it behind the cupboard. I the dr. I wanted more test done, because something happened to her. He said nothing happen she just had a seizure. I went home looked behind the cupboard and found the spoon.After that she was terrifed to sleep alone. Took her to the daycare centre. They said she just look at another child and scream and try to claw at their face. You see they knew her. Finally when she was 22 years She gave me a letter telling me about the sexual abuse. Because of the Dr.they got off scott free. My daughter continues to have PSTD and seizues and she 38 years old you can go to GOFUNDME to learn more or email [email protected]

    • awesomeblossom says:

      April Late, sorry to hear about your daughter. It’s too bad her abuser won’t face justice. Doctor should have been struck off.

  8. Bengalpuss says:

    She may have got twenty years but that poor baby has been given a life sentence, i believe she lost patience with the baby girl and shook her probably knocking her head on something hard, and blaming the little girl for doing it. What a horrible twat.

  9. Jennifer M says:

    Although she did something bad. Yes justice was served. Some of you feel sorry for both set of kids. But look at what you are typing. Her kids will read this and probably make a decision from this. But do not put down their mother. you have a right to an opinion but think about this. if you were in her shoes and your children would be able to read the nasty comments people made about you. would that make your children feel better. they already have to live knowing what their mom did and what the news is being put out there. What I have to say about this. It is sad what has happened. But nothing can change what has happened. I am not going to down the mom or anyone in this case. All i can say is that i will be thinking about the children involved and for all the family involved. May her kids grow up knowing mom did make a bad choice but she still loves them no matter what. For the child who was a victim, may you know that she is horribly sorry for what has happened to you and may you live your life each day growing to be stronger.

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