Wyatt’s Law: Mother continues fight for Michigan child abuse registry

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LANSING, Mich. -- A Michigan mother is on a mission to start a child abuse registry after her son was severely beaten, and for the rest of the now 3-year-old's life he will have to work to overcome his brain injury.

Erica Hammel says Wyatt's Law would be a critical tool as cases of abuse and neglect in Michigan continue to climb.   She was devastated when her then 18-month-old son became a victim of abuse at the hands of his father's girlfriend, Rachel Edwards.  She said she tried everything to keep Wyatt safe, but it wasn't enough.

Hammel said at one point her life was everything she had imagined. She got married to who she thought was the love of her life, and they had a baby.

"I always wanted to be a mother from a young age," said Hammel.

In February 2013 her perfect family life came to a halt. Wyatt's father stopped coming home. He was having an affair with Edwards. He eventually left Hammel for Edwards a few months later.

Hammel says she was always suspicious of Edwards, but when she searched the internet and court records she found nothing.  She later learned that Edwards had been convicted of third-degree child abuse twice prior to the incident with Wyatt.  Both times, she received only probation.

"If I had just had this one piece of information I truly believe this would have never happened to Wyatt," Hammel said.

Wyatt was left blind in both eyes and couldn't walk, talk or eat after the abuse. He has had four brain surgeries and two eye surgeries.

"The prosecutor told me that when Wyatt's case came in and came to their office, it came in as a homicide because they didn't think he was going to make it," Hammel said.

Now, Erica and Wyatt spend a lot of their time in appointments for physical therapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy.

Edwards is behind bars for hurting Wyatt, but Hammel says she is up for parole in a year. Hammel said this is the exact reason Wyatt's Law is so necessary.

"Child abuse laws are lenient. Abusers are not getting enough prison time, they are not getting tough enough sentences, and that's a huge issue across the board. And because these people are spending a lot of time in prison, or aren't getting prison time at all, this is exactly why we need Wyatt's law," said Hammel.

Wyatt's Law has been sitting in committee with state lawmakers for roughly six months.  Hammel says it's a simple law that allows the state to publish a list of convicted child abusers.

She believes a public registry of convicted child abusers could have prevented her son from being severely brain injured. If a person was convicted of third of fourth degree child abuse they would be on the registry for five years, and for first or second degree they would stay on it for 10 years. However, unlike the sex offender registry there is an opportunity for people to get off of it.

"You give birth to this perfect innocent, beautiful baby boy who is completely healthy, and somebody takes that away from them," she said.

The bill has recently been moved from the Judiciary committee  to the Families, Children, and Seniors committee. The head of that committee is Tom Hooker. Hammel and child abuse victims and their parents are urging you to contact Representative Hooker to get this law passed through.

"A mother's instinct is a very powerful thing. I just think that Wyatt's Law is another way to back up the motherly instinct," said Hammel.

You can also sign an online petition in support of the law on change.org its page in support of the legislation. 

If you suspect the neglect or abuse of a child or adult, call 855-444-3911 toll-free at any time. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services offers a list of common signs to watch for that could indicate abuse online here: http://1.usa.gov/23KOs7d.

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