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Military judge acquits Air Force mother in infant son's death

Senior Airman Natasha Beyer was acquitted on military charges of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment relating to her son, who died in 2016 at five weeks with multiple rib fractures and lesions on his brain, officials said.

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By WILLIAM COLE | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser | Published: October 14, 2020

HONOLULU (Tribune News Service) — A Hawaii-based Air Force mother of two battered infants was acquitted on military charges of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment relating to her son, who died in 2016 at five weeks with multiple rib fractures and lesions on his brain, officials said.

Senior Airman Natasha Beyer, who previously said on her LinkedIn page that she was a North Korea ballistic missile and Russia analyst at Pearl Harbor’s Joint Intelligence Operations Center, was tried in a military court at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.

The Air Force said she was acquitted of the charges by a military judge Oct. 7.

“The court-martial was moved from Honolulu to Andrews air base because of the quarantine restrictions (in Hawaii),” said Steve Lane, a court-appointed guardian for Beyer’s daughter, Avaline. “They couldn’t bring the witnesses here, so they moved the whole proceeding to Andrews.”

Grayson Caleb Beyer died at Tripler Army Medical Center on May 20, 2016. His sister, Avaline, was born July 3, 2017.

A short time later, Avaline was admitted to Tripler for seizures. A medical exam revealed the girl suffered from “numerous” brain bleeds, a skull fracture, bruising on the top of her head and on her face, and four rib fractures, according to court filings.

Tech Sgt. Caleb Humphrey, the children’s father, was sentenced in a military court in February to three years in prison for beating his daughter in 2017 when she was 7 days old, the Air Force’s 15th Wing at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam said.

Humphrey, who was with the 792nd Intelligence Support Squadron, said on his LinkedIn page that he was an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems administrator.

Beyer, the mother, was initially charged with inflicting head trauma on her son, as well as bodily harm, causing fractured ribs, according to Air Force documents.

She also was charged with assault on her daughter, causing a skull fracture, fractured ribs and a broken leg.

The Air Force said the charges that Beyer went to court-martial on were involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment — both relating to her son.

Although Beyer was earlier reduced in rank from staff sergeant to senior airman, she has not been discharged “because she was acquitted (and) there is no basis to sentence her to be punitively discharged from the Air Force,” the 15th Wing said.

Lane, guardian for the little girl who “sustained severe injuries and damages,” according to court filings, said he will formally oppose any attempt by Beyer to regain custody.

“I don’t know if the mom is going to seek custody, but if she does, I intend to file a motion to intervene in the family court proceedings and object,” he said.

The girl, now 3, reportedly is in the care of relatives on the mainland.

Lane, on behalf of Avaline Noel Beyer, filed suit in May in federal court against the U.S. government for Tripler’s alleged negligence in not spotting similar abuse involving her infant brother, who had died 14 months earlier.

That lawsuit is proceeding. Tripler previously declined comment on pending legal matters.

The lawsuit said two Tripler doctors found that Grayson Beyer died of complications of a herpes infection — a cause of death later changed by the Honolulu Medical Examiner’s office to “blunt force injuries of the head” and “homicide.”

Tripler’s negligence allowed Humphrey and/or Natasha Beyer to “severely abuse” their daughter when she otherwise would have been removed from her parents following her birth — had authorities been made aware of the physical abuse of their son, Lane’s lawsuit states.

One Tripler doctor’s 2016 consultation on the death of Grayson Beyer noted “healing rib fractures” but said vaginal delivery was one possible explanation with “no known suspicion of foul play.”

However, Lt. Col. Shelly Martin, a child abuse pediatrician at Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas, said in a 2017 review that there was no indication the boy had an active herpes infection and that birth was an “unlikely explanation” for rib fractures.

Martin said “non-accidental trauma should have been more thoroughly considered.”

His sister, meanwhile, “clearly suffered from a blunt force trauma as evidenced by the bruising and skull fracture,” she said, adding, “There is no accidental or medical explanation for these injuries.”

An Air Force investigator’s declaration found that the parents “had expensive tastes and could not really afford their lifestyle,” with an insurance payout of $10,006 made after the boy’s death.

The couple’s military lawyers, in trying to stop a financial records search, said in court papers the couple did not live in an overpriced home, with their combined $4,275 a month housing allowance covering their $2,916 mortgage.

“Just because two new working parents talked about possible expenses related to their child’s care does not warrant that they want to hurt their children in order to get some insurance money,” the lawyers said.

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