Shelburne woman charged in death of daughter

Date: 2001-05-24

Rutland Herald

BURLINGTON - A Shelburne woman has been charged with causing the death of her 3-year-old adopted daughter.

Laura Higginbotham, 33, pleaded innocent in Vermont District Court this week to charges of involuntary manslaughter.

Her daughter, Logan, died of a massive head injury in 1998.

Higginbotham said Logan was bouncing on the bed, fell and hit her head on a hobby horse.

Higginbotham was released on $20,000 bail. Her lawyer John Pacth said after court that Logan, who was adopted from Russia, had serious medical problems when she arrived here.

"Laura Higginbotham was not responsible, is not responsible, for Logan's death," Pacht said.

On Nov. 25, 1998, Logan was rushed to the hospital by Shelburne Rescue after Higginbotham reported Logan was having a seizure. Higginbotham told doctors she was not in the room when she said Logan fell.

Doctors at Fletcher Allen Health Care said they realized immediately that Logan was seriously injured, according to the court papers. Logan was close to brain dead when admitted to the emergency room, doctors said. Her brain swelled so much that the pressure forced her brain down into her brain stem. Doctors operated on her to relieve the swelling. The surgery was unsuccessful and Logan died the next day.

Dr. Steven Wald, the neurosurgeon who operated on Logan, said the extent of the injuries resembled what a child might get from a car crash, not a fall.

The case was investigated in 1998, but no charges were filed. According to court papers, Chittenden County State's Attorney Lauren Bowerman asked last year that the case be investigated again but would not say why.

Higginbotham adopted Logan and her younger sister, who is now 4, in May 1998, according to court papers. Higginbotham's custody of her other daughter is the subject of a Family Court case, which is closed to the public.

The girls attended day care together, where workers noticed both often arrived with bruises. Logan was bruised all the time, while her sister had bruises less frequently, the day care workers said. Higginbotham told the day care workers that Logan's sister often hit Logan or pushed her down the stairs.

The day care workers also said Logan would cry at the end of the day when Higginbotham came to pick her up.

"Laura would get angry and yell sharply at her," Puro wrote, quoting one of the day care workers. "She stated that Laura would handle ... (Logan) roughly by dragging her out of the day care."

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