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Tripler Army Medical Center sued for missing pattern of abuse of Hawaii Air Force couple’s children

Tripler Army Medical Center (Jim Dung, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers/WikiCommons)

The court-appointed guardian for the daughter of a Hawaii Air Force couple who suffered a skull fracture, brain injury and broken ribs as a newborn has filed suit against the U.S. government for Tripler Army Medical Center’s alleged negligence in not spotting similar abuse involving her infant brother, who died 14 months earlier.

At the time of Grayson Caleb Beyer’s death at Tripler on May 20, 2016, when he was 5 weeks old, he had multiple rib fractures and lesions on his brain, said Steve Lane, a social worker and guardian for the boy’s sister, Avaline Noel Beyer.

A federal claim for damage, injury or death that preceded the lawsuit said $50 million was being sought in the case. The lawsuit filed Monday asks for damages in amounts to be proven at trial.

Avaline Beyer “sustained severe injuries and damages” and is incapacitated, according to the suit.

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, Hawaii News Now reported.

The mother, Staff Sgt. Natasha Beyer, was initially charged with inflicting the head trauma on her son that killed him, 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 15th Wing at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam said Tuesday that Beyer, now designated a lower-ranking senior airman, currently faces charges of negligent homicide and child endangerment.

In a turn of events that Lane called “stunning,” the accused Kapolei parents never went into custody — until Humphrey was sentenced, he said.

“They were charged under the military system” and not through state or federal civilian systems “where they would both have likely been jailed without bond until their criminal case,” Lane said.

Capt. Veronica Perez, a 15th Wing spokeswoman, said Beyer “is currently working administrative tasks for her unit at the Joint Intelligence Operations Center.”

Beyer said on a LinkedIn page, since taken down, that she was a North Korea ballistic missile and Russia analyst at the “JIOC” at Pearl Harbor with top-secret clearance.

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

“Air Force members awaiting a court-martial are innocent until proven guilty,” Perez said in an email. “Pretrial confinement for military members is reserved for those rare cases in which airmen accused of committing crimes continue to commit crimes while awaiting trial or have taken actions which indicate they intend to flee the area before the court-martial is held.”

Perez said that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, “courts-martial across the Air Force are delayed” in order to comply with a Defense Department “stop movement” order.

Beyer’s trial is now scheduled for Sept. 28 through Oct. 9 but could be furthered delayed if the stop-movement order is extended, she said.

Avaline Beyer, nearly 3, is in the foster care of relatives on the mainland, Lane said.

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 medical personnel, including the two doctors, “had a duty of care” to correctly ascertain that Grayson Beyer “had been a victim of severe physical abuse,” according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court.

The Tripler 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.

The legal action refers to Avaline Beyer as “Baby Jane” Doe and her brother as “G.B.”

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.

“There is no accidental or medical explanation for these injuries” to the girl, Martin wrote. Tripler said that due to ongoing litigation, it could not respond to the lawsuit.


© 2020 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser