STANTON — Brent Slater, Samantha Slater and Benjamin Wilkins appeared in Montcalm County Juvenile Court for a pre-trial conference Tuesday afternoon to determine whether their parental rights should be terminated.
Immediately after the conference, Samantha Slater, 26, and Benjamin Wilkins, 26, were charged with first and second degree child abuse involving 2-year-old Brooklyn Weimer. First degree child abuse carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, while second degree child abuse carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
As Samantha Slater exited the juvenile courtroom and walked down the hallway, Greenville Department of Public Safety Officer Det. Chad Aniszko led her into an unused courtroom and arrested her. She was then escorted to the Montcalm County Jail next door as more than a dozen friends and family members talked in hushed tones while watching the situation unfold from the hallway.
Wilkins was already in jail custody on a parole violation. He was arraigned on the child abuse charges Tuesday afternoon. Samantha Slater is expected to be arraigned today.
Samantha’s daughter, Brooklyn, has been hospitalized at DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids since March 24 after an incident at a Greenville home. Brooklyn sustained life-threatening abdominal injuries, intracranial bleeding and severe brain swelling and lacerations were also found on her liver, indicating additional physical abuse, according to court documents. Her medical condition has been fluctuating ever since.
A trial has been scheduled for May 29 to determine whether to terminate the parental rights of Samantha Slater, her former husband Brent Slater and Wilkins. Parenting rights for all three are currently suspended, although at Tuesday’s conference Judge Charles Simon III granted Brent Slater supervised visits with Brent’s 4-year-old daughter.
Brooklyn’s biological father is currently in prison. Attorney Tammi Shaw of Lakeview has been court-appointed as Brooklyn’s advocate.
The March 24 incident was not the first time Brooklyn was harmed.
The Department of Human Services received a referral on May 15, 2012, alleging physical abuse of Brooklyn, who was then 1 year old. According to court documents, Brooklyn had a left cheek bruise in a “classic slap mark” and bruising on her right cheek, forehead, above her right eye, behind her right ear and around her neck in the shape of thumb prints. She also had scratches on her neck, abrasions under her nose, blood pooled underneath the skin behind her right ear and black and blue swollen lips.
According to court documents, Samantha Slater told Department of Human Services officials she thought the bruises might be the result of an allergic reaction to medicine. She could not give DHS officials or police a consistent account of the previous day’s or night’s events.
Brooklyn was brought to DeVos Children’s Hospital for an examination. According to court documents, a doctor said “it looks like somebody smacked the hell out of her” and determined the injuries were a result of abuse. Brooklyn and her sister were removed from Samantha Slater’s home on May 17, 2012.
Brent and Samantha Slater were awarded joint custody of their two girls last June while going through divorce proceedings, with Brent Slater being awarded primary custody.
The Slaters were allowed shared custody of the girls in February after undergoing counseling sessions via Lutheran Child & Family Service and being contacted and communicated with numerous times by DHS officials since last May, according to court documents.
No one was ever charged with last year’s abuse of Brooklyn.
Wilkins was named in last year’s court documents about Brooklyn, but not as a suspect. At that time, Samantha Slater told police she and Wilkins were not dating, but that they had “fooled around” in the past.
A little more than half a year later, Wilkins made an odd series of telephone calls from a home on Grove Street in Greenville.
Wilkins called Spectrum Health United Hospital around 8:35 p.m. Sunday, March 24, saying his friend had jumped off a roof and was breathing, but unconscious. Wilkins asked what he should do. A nurse told him to hang up immediately and call 911. The nurse then called Montcalm County Central Dispatch to express her concern about the phone call.
Central Dispatch called Wilkins at 8:37 p.m. to ask about his phone call. Wilkins changed his story, saying his friend had not fallen off the roof, but that he and his friend had been wrestling and his friend got knocked out but was conscious now.
Then, at 9:02 p.m., Wilkins called Central Dispatch to request an ambulance for Brooklyn, who was unconscious. He later admitted to police that he had put Brooklyn in the bathroom for a timeout at 7:50 p.m. and later found her unresponsive. He said he had fabricated previous stories because he did not want police or DHS involved.
On March 27, Wilkins was booked on a parole violation and lodged in jail. He has previous criminal convictions on his record, including malicious destruction of a building in 2005 and larceny in a building in 2006.
“I’m glad to see the process continue to move forward,” said Aniszko after arresting Samantha Slater on Tuesday at the Montcalm County courthouse. Montcalm County Prosecutor Andrea Krause issued the warrant aganist Samantha Slater.