Wyatt’s Law: Emotional testimony in Lansing over proposed child abuse registry

Posted at 3:00 PM, Nov 30, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-30 16:20:50-05

LANSING, Mich. -- A West Michigan mother is on a mission to change a system she says failed her son.

Wyatt was just 1-year-old when his father's girlfriend abused him, leaving him with a brain injury that will impact him for the rest of his life.   After a year fighting for a child abuse registry, Wyatt's mother Erica Hammel finally had a committee hearing Wednesday with state lawmakers.

It's something she didn't think she would see.

"Wyatt has suffered permanent brain damage.  He is blind in his left eye, he is cognitively impaired and developmentally delayed," Hammel said Wednesday during the hearing.  "And according to his doctors, he will never be able to live a normal life on his own."

Hammel and another woman, Christyne Kadlitz, were brought together in the fight for a child abuse registry by the same abuser, Rachel Edwards.  Both of their ex-husbands dated her, and she abused both of their little boys.

"A month after she was sentenced for child abuse on my son and released.  Rachel almost killed that little boy from shaken baby syndrome," Kadlitz said.

"The justice system is wrapped around protecting the abuser and there is no rights for our kids," she added.

Kadlitz's son was given seroquel, a manic bipolar medication, forced to drink soap out of a cup and slapped so hard it left welts on his body.

For those crimes, Edwards was put on probation and ordered to pay fines.  She didn't serve any jail time. One month later, Wyatt was abused and almost killed.

"Had there been a searchable registry for convicted child abusers, I know this would never happen to Wyatt," Hammel said.

Hammel ran a background check on Edwards but her past convictions didn't show up, giving her no proof to keep Wyatt away from Edwards and her ex husband.

"What we currently have in place to protect our children is not working and it's not good enough," Hammel said.

Both women are pushing state lawmakers to adopt Wyatt's Law, three bills that are aimed at making a registry for convicted child abusers.   They would be on the registry for 5 to 10 years depending on their crimes.

"You can't be put on something like this for disciplining your child," Hammel said.  "These are people who are convicted in a court of law.  You can't get anymore cut and dry than that."

There was some opposition to the law at the hearing on Wednesday. The ACLU said a system modeled after the sex offender registry is not a smart idea.

They said that system is already flawed, and keeps people from integrating back into society. They said it will be hard for people to get jobs and become a burden to society and added that to have a registry at all is very expensive.

"It was very clear to me and our committee that there is a problem. Not just a lack of registry but a lack of enforcement for child abusers," said Representative Tom Hooker.

Hooker also said the timing of this bill will make it nearly impossible to make it to the Gov. Rick Snyder's desk by the end of the year. They are in a "lame duck" session, and with the amount of bills they are already trying to present, Wyatt's Law is not likely to make it through this year.

Rep. Hooker said that the bill has the possibility of being carried over for next year.