A Mercer County grand jury has returned a three-count indictment this week charging suspended Ewing Township police officer Daniel Bannister and his wife in the December 2018 death of their three-month-old daughter, Hailey, Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo J. Onofri announced today.
Daniel Bannister, 31, was indicted on one count of first-degree murder, while Catherine Bannister was indicted on one count of second-degree reckless manslaughter. Both husband and wife were additionally indicted on one count of second-degree endangering the welfare of a child.
The prosecutor’s office reports that on Dec. 5, 2018, Ewing Township Emergency Medical Services responded to the Bannister’s Ewing home on a 911 call for an unresponsive three-month-old baby having difficulty breathing. Emergency medical technicians assessed the baby, who was not breathing and in cardiac arrest.
The baby, later identified as Hailey Bannister, was transported to Capital Health Medical Center — Hopewell, where medical personnel determined that she had suffered a fractured skull and brain bleed and had multiple fractured ribs. She was listed in critical condition and transferred from Capital Health to Robert Wood Johnson Children’s Hospital in New Brunswick.
Citing the suspicious nature of Hailey’s injuries, the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office Special Victims Unit and Homicide Task Force were contacted and advised of Hailey Bannister’s status. Detectives responded to Robert Wood Johnson Children’s Hospital and began their investigation on Dec. 5. The infant died on Dec. 11, 2018, after several days of hospitalization.
An autopsy was conducted in December 2018 by the Middlesex County Medical Examiner’s Office, and following additional testing, analysis of medical documentation, and forensic review, Hailey Bannister’s death was ruled a homicide. The medical examiner concluded that the cause of death was complications from blunt impact trauma of the head including skull fractures and subdural hemorrhage. The nature of the injuries also indicated an ongoing pattern of abuse.
The indictment is a result of an investigation by the Mercer County Homicide Task Force. Assistant Prosecutor Michael Grillo presented the case to the grand jury.