CHARLESTON -- Injuries that Piersen Eaker suffered because of an incident at the day care he attended were "the result of being shaken violently," a doctor said Thursday.
The doctor also said it "would be impossible" for the retinal hemorrhages she found in the 22-month-old boy to be caused by a fall, which is how the day care owner says he was injured.
Melissa Ajunwa-Bohonos, an ophthalmologist at Carle Foundation Hospital, Urbana, testified Thursday during the jury trial for Patricia L. Brant, who's accused of severely injuring the boy while he was in her care.
Brant, 44, is charged with aggravated battery of a child after the injuries to Piersen on Feb. 14, 2014, at Treasured Tots Day Care in Charleston, which she operated at the time.
On Thursday, Ajunwa-Bohonos said she examined Piersen the day after he was injured and found "multiple" retinal hemorrhages, or bleeding areas in the back part of the boy's inner eyes.
The doctor said the number and distribution of the injuries and the fact that there were hemorrhages in both eyes were "consistent" with being shaken and also eliminated other causes for retinal hemorrhaging.
She said the symptoms Piersen displayed were "classic for shaken baby syndrome."
During questioning by Assistant State's Attorney Tom Bucher, a member of the prosecution team, Ajunwa-Bohonos also said Piersen didn't have any earlier medical issues or trauma that could have caused the hemorrhages, leaving shaking as the only explanation, she said.
Bucher asked Ajunwa-Bohonos if Piersen's injuries were "consistent" with what Brant says happened, to which she replied that they were not.
According to earlier evidence in the trial, Brant says she left the room where Piersen and other day care children were located to use the restroom and returned to find him on the floor outside the playpen in which she'd placed him.
Brant described finding Piersen as sitting upright but slumped over, fists clenched, barely breathing and unresponsive.
During cross examination, defense attorney Todd Reardon asked Ajunwa-Bohonos if various types of falls could cause retinal hemorrhaging. She replied that they could, but not to the extent as those Piersen received.
Reardon also asked if she knew how much force an adult of Brant's size would have to exert to cause those kinds of injuries, to which Ajunwa-Bohonos said she did not.
"Because you're not a bio-mechanical engineer?" Reardon then asked.
"I'm an ophthalmologist," she replied.
The defense has indicated that during its part of the trial it plans to have a bio-mechanical engineer testify about the force of and possible injuries from falls.
Meanwhile, Thursday's witnesses also included Candis Eaker, Piersen's mother, who said she and her husband found their son "barely breathing" when they first saw him at Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center after his injuries.
Eaker said Piersen spent about three months at Carle and his leaving that hospital was followed by four months of treatment and rehabilitation at facilities in St. Louis and Chicago.
Now, Piersen can't speak or walk and needs tubes for breathing and eating, she also said.
"Somebody has be by his side 24 hours a day," Eaker said.
During Reardon's questioning, Eaker said she never told Brant about a time when she disciplined Piersen because he climbed some furniture. But she also said the family has a playpen at home and Piersen never tried to climb out of it.
Also testifying Thursday was Jodi Lanman, a day care licensing representative with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, who oversaw Brant's licensing requirements.
Lanman said Brant was in "good standing" and had no earlier reports on her record on Feb. 14, 2014. Brant told her she found Piersen outside the playpen when she reported the incident to her and when they talked two other times that day, she said.
During one of their conversations, Brant said she was having family troubles and described Piersen as "whiny" and "clingy," Lanman said. She added that Brant said Piersen cried most of the day and at times it was "ear-piercing."
Also Thursday, State's Attorney Brian Bower indicated plans to have Timothy Eaker, Piersen's father, and two physicians testify on Friday but that should end the prosecution's case.
The defense might be able to begin its case Friday but the trial is still expected to continue into next week.