Mom on toddler's death: 'I didn't plan to hurt Emma'

Date: 2006-02-10

Spring Hill woman says she lied earlier to protect husband, family. Jennifer Alvey is charged with murder in the death of adopted daughter Emma.


FRANKLIN, TN — A Spring Hill mother charged with killing her 20-month-old daughter told police she shook the toddler "without thinking," striking the child's head on a coffee table.

That caused damage that led to the death of Emma Alvey, police say. Jennifer Alvey and her husband, Phillip Alvey, adopted the toddler, who had been abandoned on a roadside in China, eight days after her birth.

In a written statement to police, Jennifer Alvey said she first lied about Emma's injuries, implying she was not involved, because she was trying to protect her husband and family.

"I lied because I was scared," she wrote in a statement taken Nov. 18 at the Spring Hill Police Department. "Not so much for myself, but I didn't want to hurt my husband and my family.

"People hate people who hurt kids. I hate those people, too. I didn't plan to hurt Emma."

The statement is one of a stack of recently released documents related to the death of Emma Alvey, who died Oct. 25 at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

A police report, the statement, adoption records, an autopsy report and medical records filed by Williamson County prosecutors on Friday show how investigators gathered evidence to charge Alvey, 34, with first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse, aggravated child neglect and reckless homicide.

She remains free on $250,000 bail, with a case review date set for April 18. Her attorney, Mark Puryear, said she would not talk to a reporter, and said it was "premature to comment on the evidence."

In her written statement, Alvey said that on Oct. 19 she was "busy in the kitchen" and Emma "was fussing."

She told police that she went to Emma to see what was wrong, then "without thinking I just shook her and she hit her head on the coffee table." Alvey then cuddled with her daughter and put the child down for a nap.

Emma never woke up. She was taken to Vanderbilt, where she died six days later after doctors performed surgery and several procedures.

District Attorney General Ron Davis said he was "always pleased when any defendant in a criminal case decides to take responsibility and admit their conduct."

Davis said Alvey's written statement would be taken into consideration as prosecutors prepare their case.

Emma Alvey was born Feb. 11, 2004. She was found on a roadside in China, wrapped in a blanket, with a piece of paper denoting her birthday, according to documents from the Huangmei County Social Welfare Institution.

Then named Mei Fu Ping, the infant girl was taken to a social welfare institution in Huangmei. Chinese authorities were unable to locate the child's birth parents, according to the institution.

Emma was taken to a foster family when she was 11 days old, the documents say.

On Feb. 14, 2004, Jennifer Alvey filled out an adoption form with Bethany Christian Services in Nashville.

Alvey answered a question about how she would discipline a child by writing: "No hitting. Limits will be set according to age and action. They need to know even if they do something wrong they will not be loved any less."

Alvey told police she'd wanted a child for a long time and had the name Emma picked out for 10 years.

Her ex-husband, Jimmy Terhune, told a Spring Hill detective that Alvey was "on a mission to have a child." Terhune said he and Alvey never had a child and that was the driving force behind their divorce.

Jennifer Alvey told police that she suffered from panic attacks and had taken medication to control the attacks. She said stress from being a new mom and stress from her mother-in-law were "the reason I started taking (medication) in the first place."

In February 2005, Jennifer and Phillip Alvey went to China to pick up Emma.

Medical records show that the couple brought Emma to Pediatric Associates of Franklin at least seven times between March and October. Emma was receiving speech therapy.

In a statement to police, Jennifer Alvey wrote, "I made sure Emma had the best doctors, eye doctors, medications, clothes, therapist … anything that was going to help her grow and develop into a healthy, happy, little girl."

Emma received 13 stitches on Sept. 27, after she fell down a flight of stairs, according to medical and police reports. She was examined and found to have no serious head injuries.

Spring Hill Detective Steve Cretin was called to Vanderbilt on Oct. 20, when social worker Carolyn Orr reported possible child abuse, according to his investigative report. Cretin interviewed Jennifer and Phillip Alvey that day.

Both told him that Jennifer Alvey was home alone with Emma, emptying the dishwasher while the baby was playing in the living room.

Jennifer Alvey told Cretin she heard Emma crying and found her in a crawling position. She said she consoled the child and laid her down for a nap, according to Cretin's report.

An autopsy conducted the day Emma died revealed that the child had suffered blunt head trauma. Dr. Thomas Deering, a medical examiner for the state, concluded that the death was a homicide.

The case was presented to a grand jury in Williamson County on Dec. 12. Jennifer Alvey was arrested the next day, and freed four hours later after posting bail. Jennifer Alvey has entered a plea of not guilty to the charges.


Let's make a new plan

"I didn't plan to hurt Emma"

I believe only a sadistic sociopath plans to hurt a child.  In most cases, physical injury inflicted upon a child is an accident -- an unfortunate manifestation that results when one or more people fail to control a chaotic situation.  [I understand my Aparents didn't plan to hurt me... but nevertheless, they did, repeatedly.] 

So much of this case reminds me of so many head-trauma cases we already have collected within our abuse section, but I'm especially impressed with the striking similarities seen in this particular case, as it compares to a recent case heard in UK courts.  [See:  Top scientist jailed for abusing her adopted children ]

  • Both mothers were desperate to have a child.  [Did both suffer from infertility?]
  • Both mothers have a history of mental disorder.  [One had Borderline Personality Disorder, the other had panic attacks severe enough to required medication]
  • Both failed to cope with the stresses associated with being a housewife and mother
  • Both were approved to adopt by investigating authorities
  • In both cases, the abuse against the children took place when the spouse was not home

Could the child's death and injuries inflicted upon all these children been prevented?  I believe they could have been, had proper screening and intervention taken place BEFORE shit started to hit the fan. 

District Attorney General Ron Davis said he was "always pleased when any defendant in a criminal case decides to take responsibility and admit their conduct." 

Yes, that's all fine and good for the defendants in this case.  What about the next case that goes to court? ... we all know there WILL be a next-case, presenting similar circumstances and situations.

Perhaps it's time people responsible for adoption reform start looking at abuse cases like this one, and those with similar injuries and outcomes, and start insisting the home-study process itself be improved.  More extensive research and thorough investigation of PAPs and familiy histories are needed.  Standards need to be established, for ALL investigating/approving agencies working as child protection advocates. Using Alvery's own words, limits need to be set according to age and action. PAP's need to prove they are physically and mentally fit to parent a child appropriately BEFORE adoption approval is granted.  After all, if mental illness is a good excuse to REMOVE a child from a family, it certainly should be reason enough to REFUSE granting approval to adopt.  No child can afford to live in a home where mommy and/or daddy become violently unstable during periods of stress.  It's just that simple.

Bethany should be shut down.

Bethany should be shut down.

Pound Pup Legacy