The Geneva teacher is accused in the death of her adopted daughter—
The Post Standard
CANANDAIGUA (AP) — A lawyer for an elementary school teacher charged with killing her 13-month-old daughter said authorities are just adding to her distress of by bringing a "horrendous" charge against her.
Lisa Hawkins-Rusch, a 28-year-old fifthgrade teacher in Geneva, was arraigned Wednesday in Ontario County Court on second-degree murder and manslaughter charges stemming from the death of her adopted child, Meghan.
"It's a shame that she has to go through this additional suffering," said Douglas Rowe, her attorney. "She loses the baby that she loved dearly and now has to defend herself on this horrendous charge."
The indictment against Hawkms-Rusch accuses her of recklessly causing her adopted daughter's death by striking her head on or with a hard object or violently shaking her, or both, said Ontario County District Attorney Michael Tantillo. Police said Hawkins-Rusch told them the toddler accidentally hit her head three times in the week before she died.
But Tantillo said the mother's explanation of what happened is "inconsistent with the injuries sustained by the child." Hawkins-Rusch and her husband, Stephen Rusch, 33, adopted Meghan, their only child, from China in June. The child died of head trauma Sept. 26 at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester. Authorities said Hawkins-Rusch told police that Meghan was "cranky" so she put her in a cnb Sept. 25.
Geneva police Detective Gary Baxter said Hawkins-Rusch told him she put Meghan on the living room floor after the child had been screaming for about 10 minutes. According to Baxter, Hawkins-Rusch said Meghan pulled herself up, fell on a stool, and then fell backward and hit her head on a carpeted floor.
According to Baxter, Hawkins-Rusch said the girl had hit her head on a coffee table Sept. 20 and on a high chair "Sept. 24.In the report, Hawkins-Rusch/l^fafed she took Meghan to Strong's emetgeficy room after the first fall, where the jirl was examined and sent home. ~-—~'. The report also states Hawkins-Rusch said she took Meghan to a pediatrician Sept. 23.
But Hawkins-Rusch reportedly told police the doctor found nothing wrong with her.
Hawkins-Rusch, who has taught in the district for five years, will be reassigned to non-classroom work until the case is resolved, said Superintendent Vincent Seahse. He said Hawkins-Rusch will work in curriculum development.
Her husband is also a teacher in the Wayne County School Distnct.