The woman left in charge of baby Wyatt was Rachel Edwards, the new partner of Hammell’s ex-husband. As the couple had joint custody of Wyatt, he would have to spend time with Edwards, away from his mother’s watchful eye.
Hammell already had her suspicions about Edwards’ personality. In fact, she had reportedly even been warned that Edwards might have abused children in the past. However, Hammell had not been able to find any evidence to substantiate those allegations.
It wasn’t for a want of trying, though. Indeed, Hammell reportedly scoured all available resources for information about Edwards’ past. Yet although Hammell couldn’t find any incriminating evidence, her one-year-old son ended up in the Children’s Hospital of Michigan after being in Edwards’ care. And his injuries were so severe that he was treated by the doctors there for almost two months.
Wyatt had been shaken so aggressively, in fact, that he suffered a skull fracture and brain damage. Although he survived the assault, he remains mentally impaired and continues to struggle to eat solid foods.
His ribs were also broken as a result of the incident, and he was left partially blind in his left eye. Moreover, Wyatt has needed further operations and visits to the therapist every year since the attack happened.
However, it wasn’t until after Wyatt suffered his injuries that it came to light that Edwards had been found guilty of child abuse twice in the past, in 2011 and 2013. Hammell was understandably furious that she had been unable to get hold of this information prior to the attack.
Edwards had admitted to third-degree child abuse back in 2011, following an incident in which she had struck a very young boy. And only a few days prior to the incident with Wyatt, Edwards had drugged that same young boy with Seroquel. That episode led to her being convicted of fourth-degree child abuse. Despite those convictions, however, she was still given probation.
Edwards subsequently entered a no-contest plea when she was put on trial for abusing Wyatt. As a result, she was sentenced to 33 months in prison in February 2014. Hammell expressed her happiness that her child’s abuser would finally see jail time, although it didn’t change the fact that the effects of Edwards’ actions will play a role in Wyatt’s life forever. And Hammell has since set out on a mission to help prevent a similar scenario devastating another child’s life.
Hammell has approached the authorities to try to get a public register of child abuse offenders created, similar to how a sex offenders’ register already exists in the United States. An online petition calling for what has been dubbed “Wyatt’s Law” attracted more than 25,000 signatures.
And the campaign for this register to be introduced in Michigan rumbles on. Hammell has stated that if this happens in her home state, it’ll likely cause a ripple effect with others looking to follow suit. The pros and cons of such a register are already being discussed in the likes of Kentucky and Utah.
There’s some resistance that’ll need to be fought against, though. Some people believe that the introduction of a child abuse register will do little to prevent such incidents taking place.
“[Wyatt’s Law] currently mimics the sex abuse registry, and we do not support that. It has not affected any changes in sexual criminal behavior. We haven’t seen the crimes drop,” Shelli Weisberg, legislative director of the ACLU of Michigan, told Fox News.
Michigan’s sex offenders’ register costs $1.2 million a year to maintain. And Weisberg believes that spending a similar amount on a register created by the passing of Wyatt’s Law would be a waste of money.
“That money could be put to much better use at intervention and prevention,” Weisberg said of a child abuser registry. “We should do everything we can to protect our children, but this offers a false safety net.”
Hammell refutes these claims, however, and continues to fight for Wyatt’s Law to be introduced. She remains determined to ensure that her son’s plight will result in legislative action being taken.
“Having this type of law would prevent others from going through what my son did,” Hammell said. “Despite what happened to him, he can make a difference. This legislation can absolutely help stop this from happening to another child.”
The proposed law took a massive step towards making it onto the statute book in February 2018, when a state senate panel passed it unopposed. The next stage will be for the bill to go through a full senate vote.
“I feel optimistic because I know getting out of committee is the hardest step,” Hammell said. “I’ve been told Wyatt’s Law would never get to bill form, never get a committee hearing and would never ever get a vote out of committee. Well, I’ve done all those things, so my hard work and persistence has paid off. I won’t stop till this passes.”
Wyatt is now five years old. Although he still requires regular visits to see his doctor and therapist, it’s looking more and more likely that his injuries might result in a safer world for other children in Detroit – and perhaps even the world.