Special Reports

Elisabeth Hunnicutt: Son had monitor put on his brain

Elisabeth (Lyssa) Hunnicutt
Elisabeth (Lyssa) Hunnicutt Tarrant County sheriff’s office

Elisabeth Hunnicutt’s mother-in-law had been suspicious that her grandson wasn’t being properly fed.

But when she shared those concerns with her son, he defended his wife.

Only later, when he learned that his mother has seen a blue pill in a cup of yogurt that Hunnicutt had been feeding their youngest, did Hunnicutt’s husband finally confront her.

When Elisabeth Hunnicutt, 28, admitted that she had given the 1-year-old boy his older brother’s autism medicine, her husband locked himself and the children in their bedroom and called 911.

She would later admit to a Fort Worth detective that she had given her son the medicine clonidine to her son five times in two weeks to make him sleep because she was “overwhelmed” and couldn’t stand his crying.

Investigators believe that because of her actions and lies, the 1-year-old was subjected to unnecessary medical procedures, including surgery to place a monitor in his skull.

Timeline

July 2008: Problems with older child

Hunnicutt’s husband is deployed to Iraq. Living in San Diego, his wife reports that their older son is beginning to have medical problems. The boy is later diagnosed with failure to thrive, or faltering weight.

February 2010: Birth of second son

The couple’s younger son is born. Hunnicutt’s husband, who has been in Afghanistan for much of the pregnancy, returns a couple of weeks after the birth.

July 2010: Medical problems begin

The younger son develops a flat spot on his head and torticollis, or spasms of the neck. Hunnicutt tells her husband that their son has agenesis of the corpus callosum, a birth defect affecting the brain; and cerebral atrophy, a brain disease.

September 2010: Feeding tube placement

The younger son is diagnosed with failure to thrive and undergoes surgery to insert a feeding tube. Hunnicutt tells her husband that doctors are concerned that the boy might have cerebral palsy.

December 2010: Move to Fort Worth

The family moves to Fort Worth after Hunnicutt’s husband is transferred to Naval Air Station Fort Worth.

May 2011: Hole drilled in child’s skull

After Hunnicutt tells doctors the younger son is extremely unresponsive and sleeps almost all day, a hole is drilled in his skull and a monitor is placed on his brain.

Despite being told that the boy has no signs of hydrocephalus, or fluid on the brain, Hunnicutt creates a profile that month on a support group page for parents of disabled children. She posts that her 16-month-old son has “cerebral atrophy, hydrocephalus, cerebral palsy and agenesis of his corpus callosum.”

June 2011: Police investigation begins

After her mother-in-law catches Hunnicutt feeding her younger boy yogurt containing a blue pill and tells her son, Hunnicutt’s husband calls Fort Worth police after confronting his wife, who admits she gave the boy medication prescribed for his older brother. Hunnicutt is arrested in May 2012.

November 2012: Hunnicutt indicted

Hunnicutt is indicted on three counts of causing bodily injury to her son, accused of giving her younger son medication not prescribed to him and causing him to undergo unnecessary placement of a cranial pressure monitor, and muscle and skin biopsies.

June 2013: Hunnicutt gets probation

Hunnicutt pleads guilty to count three of the indictment — causing the unnecessary muscle biopsy — in exchange for 10-years of deferred adjudication probation. As part of the plea, she is barred from unsupervised contact with her sons.

Her community supervision conditions are later amended to include that she cannot baby-sit or have children in her home, cannot have unsupervised contact with children under age 12, must disclose the nature of her crime to any friend or family member she visits who have children under age 12, and cannot provide food or drink to a child under age 12.

July 2013: Hunnicutt takes plea in San Diego

Hunnicutt pleads guilty to child endangerment in San Diego for having her son unnecessarily undergo surgery for a feeding tube and receives four years’ probation.

February 2015: Parental rights terminated

Hunnicutt voluntarily terminates her parental rights to her two sons, who now live with their father.

Deanna Boyd

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