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State takes custody of baby in gun slaying

Infant born with drugs in blood, maybe hurt by oxygen deprivation

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The state has taken temporary custody of a baby delivered shortly after her mother was killed by a shotgun blast late last week, even as a man has come forward claiming to be the child's father and an American Indian tribe seeks jurisdiction of the case.

A juvenile judge on Tuesday granted temporary custody of the child to the Utah Division of Child and Family Services. Which, DCFS deputy director Dwayne Betournay said, allows DCFS to oversee the child's medical situation, which continues to be dire.

The girl, who was delivered Aug. 18 by emergency C-section, was born with three different chemicals in her bloodstream — cocaine, opiates and barbiturates — and is suffering from probable brain damage due to lack of oxygen.

"We will continue to work with the doctors to ensure that the ongoing medical needs are met," he said.

If doctors make recommendations for anything "beyond normal medical care," agency officials will seek guidance from the Utah Attorney General's Office and, ultimately, the judge before taking action, Betournay said.

"If it were critical decisions, such as whether to authorize the 'do not resuscitate' order or the removal of life support, . . . we would feel like we would need to bring that back before the judge and present the medical arguments," he said.

In court Tuesday, state attorneys discussed seeking a possible "do not resuscitate order" for the baby girl, but 3rd District Juvenile Judge Elizabeth Lindsley declined to address the issue absent a formal motion from the state. On Wednesday, Betournay said that is not the direction DCFS intends to take in the case.

"Not at this point in time," he said.

A man who believes he may be the child's father contacted state officials on Friday but has not yet established paternity or filed the required documents to become a party to the case, Betournay said.

DCFS is also working with a tribal court in South Dakota to determine if the Oglala Sioux tribe, of which the child's mother was a member, has jurisdiction over the baby girl. The tribe has filed a motion in 3rd District Juvenile Court to intervene in the matter, Betournay said.

Darla Marie Woundedhead was shot in the abdomen and chest while standing in the doorway of a room at the Dream Inn motel, 1865 W. North Temple. Woundedhead, 30, was struck by a single blast from a 12-gauge pump shotgun, according to Salt Lake City police. She was estimated to be seven months pregnant at the time of her death.

The following day, police arrested Kerri Armant, 32, in connection with the shooting. They continue to search for three men believed to be with Armant at the time of the incident. Police have not commented on whether they believe Armant or one of the men pulled the trigger.


E-mail: awelling@desnews.com