Fall didn't kill toddler, officials say

Relates to:
Date: 1992-09-29

Results of an autopsy conflict with what hospital workers were told, Geneva's police chief says

SHAWN CAREY
The Post-Standard

The death of the 13-month-old adopted daughter of a Geneva couple is being investigated as a homicide.

Meghen Hawkins-Rusch was pronounced dead at 2:10 p.m. Saturday at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester. On Sunday the Monroe County Medical Examiner's Office in Rochester determined that the child died of head injuries.

As of late Monday afternoon, no one had been charged, Geneva Police Chief Frank Pane Jr. said.

The child's adoptive mother, Lisa Hawkins-Rusch, 28, told hospital personnel that the girl was injured when she fell Friday night in the family's living room at 401 High St., Pane said.

The autopsy disputed the mother's claim, he said.

"We're investigating this because the baby died of a head injury of a suspicious nature," Pane said. "The medical examiner determined these injuries couldn't have happened from a fall."

The child was taken to Geneva General Hospital at 7:30 p.m. Friday, then flown by helicopter to Strong Memorial, Pane said.

After the child was examined, Child Protective Services of Ontario County was notified, Pane said. The incident was reported to Geneva police at 4 a.m. Saturday.

Lisa Hawkins-Rusch told a hospital caseworker that she and her husband, Stephen Rusch, adopted their daughter from an orphanage in China June 22.

Lisa Hawkins-Rusch is a fifth-grade teacher in the Geneva City School District, Superintendent Vincent Scalise said.

Stephen Rusch, 33, teaches at Newark High School in Wayne County, principal Dave Paddock said.

The two were not at work Monday and could not be reached for comment. They have an unpublished telephone number.

The two have no other children, but a Geneva High School exchange student, Chu Chi Gonzalez, 17, is living at the couple's home, Pane said.

The teen told police he had never been alone with Meghen Hawkins-Rusch, Pane said.

Lisa Hawkins-Rusch said she and her daughter were the only people home when the child was injured, Pane said. Police are not sure whether that is accurate because the woman gave conflicting reports on where her daughter had fallen, Pane said.

Ontario County District Attorney R. Michael Tantillo said the parents have hired attorney David Murante of Rochester to represent them. Murante was not available for comment Monday.

Pane said city and state police are expected to end their investigation today and report to Tantillo.

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