CONROE, Texas — A Texas woman who spent about five years in prison for the 2011 death of her premature son has once again been accused of injuring her child, this time a baby girl she gave birth to at her mother’s home and left to drown in a toilet, according to police.
Denette Elizabeth Williams, 33, of Conroe, is charged with felony child endangerment, according to the Houston Chronicle. She is out on $50,000 bond.
A Nov. 17 probable cause affidavit obtained by the newspaper and ABC 13 in Houston alleges that Williams was on parole the morning of Sept. 3 when the father of her daughter, Christopher Hardmon, awoke to Williams’ screams.
Hardmon ran into the bathroom and found the newborn jammed head-first in the toilet bowl, which was filled with water. He pulled her out of the water and called 911, saving the child’s life.
Williams told medical staff at Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Hospital that she thought she had menstrual cramps when she went to the bathroom around 3 a.m. that day. She said she heard a “plop” and saw blood following a particularly severe cramp, so she got in the shower, which was in a separate room about 10 feet from the toilet.
She was in the shower when Hardmon heard her screams, ABC 13 reported.
Williams told police and hospital workers she had no idea she was pregnant before giving birth, the affidavit states.
Hospital staff told authorities, however, that the baby appeared to be at least 35 weeks along when she was born. When they examined the child, they found a six-inch piece of umbilical cord still attached.
The other end of the cord was “flayed,” the affidavit states.
Williams’ mother told detectives that she noticed her daughter’s belly a few days before the birth and questioned whether she was pregnant, the Chronicle reported. Williams told her she wasn’t sure, but that she wanted to see a doctor to find out.
According to the affidavit, however, detectives learned that Williams had applied for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits. In the application, she identified herself as a pregnant woman with a due date of Sept. 1.
Judith Shields, the attorney representing Williams, told the Chronicle that she believes her client was charged solely on the basis of her previous conviction.
“I think that when everything is looked at and brought forward, we may ﬁnd that Denette is not the hideous monster that the state is trying to portray her as, so we’re just gonna keep working to ﬁnd the truth,” Shields said.
The birth and death of Braylan Hood
In Williams’ previous criminal case, she was initially sentenced to 15 years in prison for the death of her 5-week-old son, Braylan Preston Hood. The boy was born more than a month premature on Feb. 1, 2011.
Court records indicate Braylan, who weighed 4 pounds, 5 ounces at birth, was released to his parents’ care after a week in the neonatal unit.
Just 31 days later, a then-23-year-old Williams called 911 because her son had stopped breathing. The infant was taken to Conroe Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead early the next morning.
According to the Chronicle’s coverage of Williams’ subsequent trial, the officers who went to her home were immediately suspicious because Braylan’s body showed signs of abuse.
His autopsy showed that his neck was broken, his brain was hemorrhaging and his spinal cord had been partially severed, the newspaper reported. He also had broken ribs and ligature marks on his neck and arms.
Investigators determined that after the boy was violently abused, Williams and the baby’s father, Jimmie Preston Hood, also 23, left him strapped alone in a car seat for 11 hours without feeding him or changing his diaper.
Jurors convicted Williams of first-degree felony injury to a child by omission and sentenced her to 15 years. An appeals court later lowered the conviction to a second-degree felony, reducing her sentence to 10 years, the Chronicle reported.
She was granted parole in June 2017 and is due to remain on parole until July 2022. If convicted of the new charge, she could be forced to finish out the sentence in her son’s death.
She faces an additional two years in prison on the child endangerment charge related to her second child.
Hood was also convicted of felony injury to a child by omission in Braylan’s death, the Chronicle reported. He was sentenced to probation, but that probation was revoked less than a year later due to violations.
He was ordered to serve seven years in prison.