Centre County couple charged after death of 8-week-old child

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PLEASANT GAP, CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — Police have charged a Centre County couple after investigating the death of their 8-week-old child.

Tyler Austin Baney, 24, and Ciara Dawn Steffey, 20, were charged with endangering the welfare of children, involuntary manslaughter, and recklessly endangering another person.

Police report that on February 1, 2019, they responded to a call about an infant who wasn’t breathing. They arrived on scene to find Baney giving CPR to the child, but the child was already dead.

The couple claimed to police that the 8-week-old was treated for an ear infection a few days before, but was otherwise healthy.

The autopsy showed hemorrhaging of the brain consistent with a short fall.

During the investigation, police noted that the home was full of items and the couple had to make a make-shift bed for them and their other child and the infant spent the night in a Rock ‘n’ play style sleeper

Police got a warrant to search their cell phones and found videos, pictures, and messages showing that the couple frequently drank, and got into arguments and confrontations with each other. Police state that Baney even sent a message to a friend saying he was going to break into the house and kill Steffey.

After FBI special agents came in and gave both separate polygraph tests, they admitted to police that the baby had fallen off the couch the day before the death. Police say they both agree the baby fell, but both had different stories as to what happened. Steffey claims Baney started an argument and she forgot she was holding the child when she got up from the couch. Baney claims he was laying on the make-shift bed trying to get their other son to sleep when he heard a thud.

Baney stated that after the fall, the 8-week-old cried and screamed for an hour before finally going to sleep. Baney told police that at around 10:30 p.m. the baby didn’t move or make a noise while having his diaper changed, Baney stating he was “unsure if the baby was still alive at that time.”

Both state they lied to police out of fear of losing their other child.

CYS was involved due to Steffey acting unusual after giving birth and admitted she smoked marijuana during her pregnancy. CYS also got involved with the last pregnancy for the same reason.

Certified Child Abuse Pediatrician and the Director of the Division of Child Safety and Advocacy at Geisinger Medical Children’s Hospital Dr. Pat Bruno received the medical and autopsy records sent by State College Police. Dr. Bruno noted that the infant showed other injuries that were inconsistent with a fall on the floor, such as an old rib fracture that started to heal. He also concluded that Steffey and Baney’s failure to get the infant treatment was a contributing factor to his death.

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