The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

March 7, 2014

Judge accepts guilty plea in abuse case

By Samantha Pidde Herald Staff Writer
The Clinton Herald

---- — CLINTON — A District Court Judge accepted the guilty plea of a Calamus woman charged with denying medical care to her 6-week-old baby girl, resulting in bodily injury.

Danielle Bunce, 23, was charged in connection with a incident occurring between Feb. 17 and Feb 19, 2013, and pleaded guilty to one count of child endangerment, resulting in bodily injury. In a sobbing voice, Bunce admitted in court Thursday that she knew her baby was injured on Feb. 18, 2013.

“Her cry was different. She was crying and it sounded like she was in pain,” Bunce said. “It was a cry I didn’t recognize. It was a very high pitch.”

Bunce told the court that she noticed bruises on either side of her neck after she allegedly rolled off of the chest of her father, Eladio Pena Jr., while he was sleeping on the couch. She also noticed her daughter cried whenever she was moved or her neck was touched.

“But you didn’t get her medical treatment did you?” Defense Attorney Les Blair asked. She responded that no, she did not.

On Feb. 19, 2013, Bunce noticed a change in her daughter. She told the court the baby had a hard time swallowing and showed signs of having seizures.

“Especially her hands and her feet just kept twitching all over,” Bunce said.

Blair indicated that a text from Bunce at 9:15 a.m. that morning showed she was taking the baby to the hospital. However, Bunce admitted Thursday that she did not call 911 and did not go directly to the hospital.

According to court documents, Bunce and her maternal aunt, Debra Dillon, brought the baby to the Genesis Hospital emergency room in Davenport shortly before 11 a.m. Bunce admitted they lied to hospital officials, making up a story about a dog jumping up on Dillon and causing her to drop the child. She told the court that she did not tell the truth until after she learned the seriousness of her injuries.

According to the affidavit, after hospital tests revealed hemorrhaging and soft tissue swelling, as well as fractures of the left second rib, the baby was airlifted to University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City. She was hospitalized for multiple brain and spinal injuries. Upon prompting from Blair, Bunce admitted that the changes in her daughter’s condition happened because she delayed in taking her to the hospital.

Bunce’s sentencing is set for 10 a.m. on April 10. At that time, Clinton County Attorney Mike Wolf will recommend a suspended sentence and Blair will ask for a deferred judgment. The state also will dismiss two counts of child endangerment, causing serious injury and one count of willful injury, causing serious injury.

Pena pleaded guilty in July to child endangerment with serious injury, habitual offender, and was ordered to serve up to 15 years in prison. Dillon pleaded guilty to child endangerment and received a deferred judgment in January.