The mother of the 8-month-old whose father is alleged to have fatally injured him on New Year’s Day 2012 took the witness stand Monday to testify through tears in her former fiance’s murder trial.
Jennifer Cabanayan told the jury about an overnight dispute she had with Shane Eric Hinkson, who wanted her to spend that New Year’s Eve with him and their son Alexander Cabanayan instead of going out with friends.
She said that from midnight through 6:16 a.m., they exchanged 79 texts, 44 of them hers and 35 his. After that, he quit responding, she said.
She said she spent New Year’s Eve with a coworker while Hinkson celebrated with the infant at a fellow soldier’s home. Hinkson was serving in the infantry at the time.
She went out on her own because she had not had a chance to since the baby was born April 25, 2011, she said. She and Hinkson had an argument because he had been going out with friends while she had not, she said.
She said she called him about 4:30 a.m. and got no answer. In the morning she went to work at the Peachtree Mall Buckle store. She called Hinkson’s Antietam Drive apartment at 8:02, and he returned her call about 8:30 a.m., then called again about 10 a.m., she said.
She did not hear from him again until 1:55 p.m. — and what he said then terrified her.
He told her “something bad had happened” and she needed to come home right away. In the background she could hear the infant crying. “It was a weird cry,” she recalled.
Because the coworker she’d been out with had given her a ride to work, she had no car. She called her boss, who gave her a ride to Hinkson’s apartment.
She and Hinkson had another telephone conversation on her way there, a conference call with Hinkson’s mother on the line. “He was not his normal self,” Cabanayan recalled. He told her if she called anyone else, he would be “taken away,” and he added some “pretty horrific, scary things,” saying he would shoot anyone else who came through the door, she testified.
She tried to calm him down: “I kept telling him to stay on the phone. Listen to my voice.”
She walked up to his apartment and walked in, announcing her arrival, she said. In the kitchen she saw Hinkson standing with a gun to his head. “My first thought was, ‘I need to keep my eyes on him,’” she said, so she walked toward him before veering left to enter the bedroom where the baby slept.
What she saw there frightened her more: Her child’s eyes were offset. “It was like he was winking,” with one eye nearly closed, she said. “One eye was looking up and one was looking down.”
The infant couldn’t cry, just emit a moaning sound. She gathered him up: “I held him because he was making that moaning sound,” she said. She then rushed to her boss’ car and they sped to St. Francis Hospital.
Hinkson’s lead defense attorney, David Wolfe of Atlanta, told the jury Monday that St. Francis was not equipped to handle the child’s head trauma: It had no neurosurgeon on call.
Wolfe said doctors at the hospital repeatedly inserted a tube down the boy’s throat to help the baby breathe, but never placed it properly. By the time a helicopter crew arrived to life-flight the infant to an Atlanta trauma center, the child had “flatlined” and had to be resuscitated, the lawyer said.
Wolfe asked Cabanayan whether she knew St. Francis wasn’t the best place to take her child.
“I just wanted to get to the quickest emergency room,” she said.
Her son died in Atlanta on Jan. 6. She said doctors there told her she had to decide whether to disconnect the baby’s life support.
Wolfe in his opening statement Monday emphasized the time the child was at St. Francis, telling jurors the baby died as a result of the treatment there. If the tube to improve oxygen flow is inserted properly, the patient has an 82 percent survival rate, Wolfe said.
Initially tests to gauge the child’s injury appeared to show he was doing well, but then his condition abruptly declined, Wolfe said.
On the subject of his client’s mental state, the attorney acknowledged Hinkson had lingering aftereffects from serving in Iraq, where he drove trucks on patrol. “Thankfully he wasn’t in a firefight,” Wolfe said, but Hinkson suffered insomnia and developed a short temper.
After Cabanayan left his apartment that New Year’s Day with the infant, Hinkson put down the gun and went to Fort Benning to speak with a chaplain, then surrendered to military police, who turned him over to Columbus police.
Columbus police had been called to the hospital when doctors saw the baby’s suspicious head injury. When Cabanayan told them about Hinkson’s holding a gun to his head, officers went to his apartment and found the gun loaded with one bullet, but Hinkson had left.
In a later interview with detectives, Hinkson told them he lost his temper as he dealt with Cabanayan’s texts and the baby’s repeated crying.
“Crying and crying and crying” is how prosecutor William Hocutt IV described it to the jury in his opening statement. Hinkson just couldn’t take anymore, and he snapped, Hocutt said.
The child’s massive head trauma resulted either from Hinkson’s shaking the baby hard with his hands or slamming the infant down onto a bed, Hocutt said.
“Ladies and gentleman, this case is not a ‘who done it,’” the prosecutor told jurors.
The trial resumes this morning in Judge Frank Jordan Jr.’s Government Center courtroom, where physicians are expected to testify today.