Failed to Death: Zachariah Yancey

3:48 PM, Nov 11, 2012   |    comments
Zachariah Yancey
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Age: 2 mos.
Born: May 18, 2009
Died: Aug 11, 2009
Location: Arvada
Suspect in death: Brandon Yancey, father

Zachariah Yancey was a week shy of 3 months old in August 2009 when his father called 911 to report his son was having trouble breathing.

Brandon Yancey Jr., who was 20 at the time, said he had been alone with his son watching TV while his wife worked at Jack in the Box. He and Zachariah, who was swaddled and lying in the crook of his arm, fell asleep. "I rolled over sometime in my sleep and woke up on top of him," he later told police. Yancey said the sound of Zachariah gasping for air woke him.

At the hospital, as Zachariah was fighting for his life, police interviewed his family members, and his parents' friends.

They learned that Brandon and Danielle and their kids sometimes lived with Brandon's dad, sometimes with Danielle's mom, sometimes together, sometimes not. The couple had a turbulent relationship - Danielle once sought a restraining order against Brandon - and that Brandon had doubts about whether he was Zachariah's father.

Police who went to the Arvada home where Brandon and Zachariah had been sleeping described the home as a "pit," and reported seeing a dead mouse in a trap and a hunting knife within easy reach of Zachariah's 2-year-old brother.

Brandon Yancey told police Zachariah had been fussy that afternoon. Yancey, who said he babysat while everyone else worked, said when he laid Zachariah in his bassinet, the baby let out "a blood curdling scream," so he picked him up and tried to comfort him.

Doctors treating Zachariah found three healing rib fractures, fluid, swelling and bleeding in his brain and hemorrhages in both eyes.

Officers told Yancey the injuries didn't match what he said happened, and, according to the arrest warrant affidavit, asked if he had gotten upset with his son. "I never got upset with him. I never do that. You don't do that, that's f---d up. People who do that deserve to get their asses shot. Period. I am very strict with that you leave infants alone. You leave children alone."

The next day, Zach was taken off life support. He died an hour later.

Over five years when Brandon was a child, human services investigated multiple allegations that he was being abused. One accusation involved his father slamming Brandon's head into a wall. All but one of the calls to human services about Brandon were determined to be unfounded.

In 2003, social workers investigated whether Danielle Yancey, then 14, was the victim of abuse and neglect, but the findings of that investigation were "inconclusive."

In 2008, before Zachariah was born, Jefferson County Human Services got a report that Danielle Yancey was neglecting her older son and raising him in an unsafe environment. Social workers determined the accusations "unfounded." However, a state child-fatality review after Zachariah's death noted that the case worker interviewed Danielle at county offices, never saw her home and failed to ask about allegations that she was smoking marijuana in front of her child.

That review concluded that several mistakes were made but those mistakes had no bearing on what happened to Zachariah.

Brandon Yancey pleaded guilty to child abuse resulting in death and was sentenced to 21 years in prison.


Read the fatality review

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