Ocala, Florida — On April 12, 2014, Deputies Thomas and Lowrey responded to the Vacation Host Inn on South Pine Avenue in reference to an unresponsive newborn.
A female, later identified as Chrystal Hassell, 37, had apparently given birth the baby while alone in her motel room and the baby was breathing intermittently.
According to reports, Marion County Fire Rescue arrived on the scene prior to the deputies arriving and transported Hassell and the baby to Munroe Regional Medical Center.
When deputy Thomas arrived at MRMC there was a team of medical personnel attending to the newborn baby boy.
The baby was placed on a ventilator, then air lifted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Florida. Deputy Lowrey stayed at the motel just in case it was determined to be a crime scene.
Deputy Thomas made contact with Hassell and obtained written consent allowing a search of her motel room.
Hassell stated that [she] has been addicted to crack cocaine most of her life and that she also has two other children; a 16-year-old and an 11-month-old baby boy. Hassell said both of her children were born addicted to crack cocaine.
According to reports, Hassell stated that she visited MRMC on March 7, 2014, at which time a pregnancy test was performed and confirmed she was pregnant. She said she told the hospital that she had been smoking crack cocaine during the entire pregnancy and that she didn’t have any prenatal care. She said she stopped smoking for about three weeks after finding out she was pregnant, but couldn’t stand the cravings.
Hassell stated that on April 10, 2014, she began smoking crack and continued for at least 24 hours straight when she began to bleed vaginally.
Hassell began to bleed extremely heavy about an hour after she stopped smoking crack, but did not want to seek medical attention because she was high on crack cocaine and she had an active warrant, according to reports.
Hassell said that once she realized she had smoked too much crack cocaine and needed medical attention, she felt she could possibly stop her labor by simply laying down and relaxing. She said it didn’t work and her labor got so intense that the baby just “fell out,” while she was in the bathtub.
Hassell said she then chewed the umbilical cord in half and tied it in a knot. She said she then cleaned out the baby’s mouth with water and placed him on the bed. She then returned to the bathroom, delivered the placenta and flushed it down the toilet.
When she returned to the baby, she said he was making a “grunting” sound and she thought it was cute until she realized the baby was actually gasping for air. She said he was turning purple so she gave him several breaths and he began to breathe on his own.
The back-and-forth with the breathing and the baby gasping for air continued for about 20 minutes after the initial breath was given, according to reports.
Father of the baby, Vincent Terry, 43, then called the motel room and Hassell asked, “Are you close? I don’t think I can keep this baby alive.”
Hassell said she didn’t call 911 because she was afraid that her baby would be taken away from her.
According to reports, an additional 30 minutes had passed when Terry called back and said he had been pulled over by a Marion County Sheriff’s Deputy and was being arrested for an outstanding attempted murder warrant from Colorado.
According to reports, Terry told Hassell to “do what she needed to do for the baby.”
Hassell said after hanging up, the baby was gasping for air for at least another 10 minutes before she hesitantly decided to call 911; nearly 1-hour after the baby was born.
Deputy Thomas asked her if she felt she could have made better decisions; to which Hassell replied, “Oh I know I could have, this is ridiculous, I don’t know what I was thinking. I don’t know what I was thinking getting pregnant, I didn’t even want a baby.”
Terry told deputies that he thought the baby was already dead.
Terry said that he knew that Hassell had a problem with drugs, but didn’t know she was smoking crack cocaine for 24 hours straight.
The other children have been placed in DCF custody and background checks are being performed on potential family members in order to determine if the children can be released into their custody.
Terry said he was not aware of the outstanding warrants for attempted murder, domestic violence, possession of a schedule II substance and violation of probation. He says after he returns to Ocala, he will get his kids back and stay with Hassell because she is a “good person.”
Hassell was arrested and charged with Child Neglect-Without Great Bodily Harm despite the baby remaining in critical condition.
Hassell is also on Suicide watch at the Marion County Jail.
Terry will be transported back to Colorado to face charges.
[Updated on April 22, 2014 at 5:58 p.m.]
The baby boy has now been taken off a ventilator and is in stable condition, according to DCF. Once the baby is well enough, he will be released into the custody of other family members.