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Parents Shattered by Their Worst Fear : Investigations: Kevin Young died of injuries suffered at his baby-sitter's. Debra Cummings, charged with murder, is free on bail.

July 11, 1990|PATRICIA KLEIN LERNER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Toni Majoy-Young of Reseda was in the midst of a typical afternoon's work studying a client's insurance policy when a phone call brought to life every working parent's nightmare: The baby-sitter said her child was hurt.

"Could you come get him? He fell and hit his head," Majoy-Young recalls baby-sitter Debra Suzanne Cummings saying of Majoy-Young's 9-month-old son, Kevin. "He's got a big bump and I'm afraid to let him go to sleep."

That call, on June 15, and the events that followed shattered the lives of Majoy-Young and her husband, as well as Cummings, 32, a Reseda mother who cared for children in her home.

A day after the phone call, Kevin was dead of two fractures to the back of the skull. Cummings was charged with his murder.

Although Cummings said the boy fell against a coffee table, the Los Angeles County coroner's office attributed the fatal injuries to blunt force trauma to the head, apparently by a blow from a hand or fist.

Cummings, president of the PTA at Shirley Avenue Elementary School in Reseda, where her 6-year-old daughter is enrolled, has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Cummings, who was released on $100,000 bail at 5 a.m. Tuesday, is also under investigation in connection with the March 15 death of Matthew Cooley of Reseda, a 14-month-old boy who lost consciousness while at a park with Cummings. At the time, the boy's doctor ruled that the cause of death was a seizure from natural causes, but the death is now under scrutiny because of Kevin's death and because Matthew's mother said he never had seizures around anyone but Cummings.

Majoy-Young, a 27-year-old underwriter for a Van Nuys insurance agency, said Tuesday that she still finds it difficult to believe that her son's death is at the center of a murder investigation with his baby-sitter as the suspect.

"I don't see how anybody could ever harm him," she said. "I just don't want to believe that somebody actually was physical with him because I can't imagine there ever being any reason why they would. My biggest fear is that he was hit. I worry if he was scared when it was happening or if he knew what was happening to him.

"Just knowing the truth would make it a lot easier."

"Anybody who knew Kevin loved him," his mother said. "He smiled all the time. He never cried. Other people with babies said 'You are so lucky.' "

Cummings could not be reached for comment.

Her attorney repeated an accusation, made earlier in a bail hearing for Cummings, that the murder charge is the result of a vendetta against her by the detective investigating the deaths.

Majoy-Young found Cummings through an ad in the Pennysaver classified advertising paper as her two month-maternity leave was about to expire last October. She said Cummings seemed to love children, and her home on a quiet Reseda street was immaculate and homey. The facility was unlicensed but cost $75 a week, less than the licensed facilities that Majoy-Young had considered.

Majoy-Young's husband, Kevin, a production assistant on the television series "Twin Peaks," watched the baby when he was on hiatus for three months, but Cummings cared for Kevin for about six months altogether.

She said Kevin seemed clean and well fed, and although he had recently begun to cry when she dropped him off, she attributed it to the separation anxiety that is normal for his age group. Everything went fine until June 15 when Majoy-Young received Cummings' urgent call about her son's head injury. Majoy-Young said she hung up and began crying but composed herself enough to call her baby's pediatrician. A nurse reassured her that the baby was probably all right and warned her of adverse symptoms to watch for.

"After I talked to the pediatrician I was calm enough to drive over there. All the way over there driving, I kept thinking, 'He's going to be fine. He just hit his head, no big deal.'

"When I got to the house, I went in and Debra was sitting on the couch and Kevin was laying over her shoulder and she was patting his butt.

" 'He's asleep, I can't get him to wake up,' " Majoy-Young quoted Cummings as saying.

"I lifted up his eyelid to look at his pupils and he was not there. And his breathing was staggered. He would breathe a couple breaths and make a little noise," Majoy-Young said.

Majoy-Young said she grabbed her baby and rushed him to the nearest hospital, A.M.I. Tarzana Regional Medical Center.

"The whole time driving there I was screaming at him, 'Kevin, wake up, Kevin, wake up. This is Mommy. Wake up,' " Majoy-Young said, breaking into tears.

Informed by doctors that Kevin couldn't have suffered the head injury by hitting his head on a coffee table, Majoy-Young said she "began to get a little suspicious" and called Cummings "to find out what happened."

" 'I was in the kitchen making a bottle and I heard a thunk,' " Majoy-Young quoted Cummings as saying. " 'I went into the living room and he was sitting there crying,' "

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