Clayton County

Metro Atlanta hospital where baby was decapitated claims infant died in utero prior to delivery

RIVERDALE, Ga. — The metro Atlanta hospital where a newborn was decapitated during childbirth last month claims that the baby died in utero prior to the delivery and wasn’t decapitated until after his death.

Jessica Ross, 20, went into labor with her son, Treveon Isaiah Taylor, Jr. on July 9 at Southern Regional Medical Center.

According to a lawsuit filed by the family, the baby became stuck about 10 hours into Ross’ labor and was eventually decapitated when the family’s doctor attempted for hours to pull him out.

The lawsuit claims doctors “pulled on the baby’s head and neck so hard and manipulated them so hard, that the bones in the baby’s skull, head and neck were broken.”

The family has since filed a lawsuit against the doctor who delivered the baby, Tracey St. Julian, her OBGYN practice, the nurses and doctors involved in the birth and the hospital, citing medical negligence and the wrongful death of the baby. The lawsuit also alleges that the hospital tried to cover up the fact that the baby was decapitated.

On Thursday, officials with Southern Regional Medical Center issued a statement saying that “this unfortunate infant death occurred in utero prior to the delivery and decapitation,” and said that the doctor who delivered the baby, Tracy St. Julian is not “and never has been” an employee of the hospital.

“The hospital voluntarily reported the death to the Clayton County Medical Examiner’s office and is cooperating with all investigations,” officials hospital said.

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However, in a statement issued by the Clayton County Medical Examiner’s Office Thursday, the M.E. claims that the first time they heard about the baby’s decapitation was when the funeral home alerted them.

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Channel 2 Investigative Reporter Ashli Lincoln spoke with the director of the Clayton County M.E.’s office, Brian Byars, who said even the most seasoned investigators say this is by far one of the most troubling cases they’ve ever investigated. The M.E.’s office is conducting one of at least three active investigations into the baby’s death.

“It’s tough for the police department to have to look at these pictures,” Byars said.

Byars said in a statement Thursday that workers at Willie A. Watkins funeral home were the first to tell the child’s parents, Jessica Ross and Treveon Isaiah Taylor Sr., that the baby was decapitated and encouraged them to get a private autopsy performed.

Officials with the funeral home then notified the Clayton County M.E.’s office more than three days after the baby died, Byars said.

“We are grateful for (the funeral home’s) call, because the incident had not yet been reported to us,” Byars said. “I really want to thank Willie A. Watkins for being brave enough and bringing this to our attention.”

State law requires doctors and medical staff to report certain hospital deaths to the M.E.’s office, something investigators said medical staff failed to do.

After being notified of the death by the funeral home, Byars’ office took jurisdiction of the death investigation and contacted the GBI Medical Examiner’s Office to request they also perform an autopsy.

The autopsy was performed on July 14 and is pending review.

Byars said his office is currently questioning several doctors and nurses who played a role in the case.

“I don’t think we can imagine what the family is going through,” Byars said. “The truth will come out, whatever that might be when it’s all said and done.”

The lawsuit claims that on the day of the birth, the baby didn’t descend through the birth canal due to “shoulder dystocia,” a condition that happens when one or both of a baby’s shoulders get stuck during delivery.

“There is no documentation of any nurse or Dr. St. Julian activating any emergency obstetrical protocol in a timely manner after the shoulder dystocia was recognized,” the lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit states that about an hour before the baby was eventually delivered by C-section, fetal heart tones stopped.

According to the lawsuit, doctors actively tried to cover up what had happened by telling them they didn’t have the right to a free autopsy, encouraging cremation and concealing what happened when they asked to see the child.

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“When they wrapped the baby up tightly, they propped the baby’s head on top of the blanket to make it appear like the head was attached when it wasn’t,” attorney Dr. Roderick Edmond said.

The Clayton M.E.’s office said they have notified the Georgia Composite Medical Board of the incident and requested that they also investigate three doctors’ roles in the baby’s death.

They are also notifying the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office Board of Nursing and are requesting they investigate the nursing staff’s role in the child’s death.

State medical records reveal that St. Julian has had her license to practice in Georgia since 2004. She has hospital privileges at Southern Regional and Piedmont Fayette. There were no disciplinary actions reported on her license.

If she’s charged in the case, St. Julian and other staff could face charges of failure to report a death, concealing a death and involuntary manslaughter.