Justice for Lylah Grace: Months after 2-year-old's death, Red Wing family awaits court action
Kayla Berentsen had to work late on Nov. 28, receiving CPR and first aid training for her work.
Berentsen's phone was on silent, turned over, as not to distract her from the training.
When she checked her phone, she had missed calls, one coming from her neighbor saying her daughter, Lylah Grace Koob, was being taken away in an ambulance.
All Berentsen knew when she arrived at the hospital was that her daughter was choking and having a hard time breathing. The toddler was transferred to Mayo Clinic in Rochester to receive further treatment.
Lylah Grace, 2, died the next day. She was pronounced brain dead at the hospital and the family decided to take her off life support.
Days after Lylah Grace's death, Adam Michael Peter Travis, Berentsen's boyfriend, was arrested on multiple felony manslaughter and child endangerment charges, after a medical examiner found the child's injuries were consistent with shaken baby syndrome.
Travis was at home watching Lylah Grace at the time of the incident. According to a Goodhue County criminal complaint filed on Dec. 3, Travis fed Lylah Grace and her brother, Lyndon, dinner on Nov. 28.
The complaint alleges that Travis said that Lyndon alerted him that his sister was puking. Travis allegedly administered CPR to Lylah Grace, but was unsuccessful, contacting emergency services for help.
According to the complaint, when confronted with the information from Red Wing police that Lylah Grace's death was a different injury than choking, Travis became angry. The police explained the autopsy found she had suffered from a subdural hematoma, something that happens after a severe head injury.
The complaint states that Travis demonstrated using a doll how he shook Lylah Grace. The complaint said the police "observed that the doll's head was violently snapping from front to back."
Travis has been in custody since his arrest, appearing in court six times, one as recent as June 7. His next scheduled appearance is 9 a.m. July 31 in Goodhue County District Court.
A major delay in moving the case through court has come from the second autopsy. Goodhue County officials didn't receive the second autopsy performed in Rochester until recently.
That autopsy has not been discussed in court, but Berentsen said the death certificate lists the cause of death as "blunt force trauma."
Charges against Travis have not been revised since this second autopsy.
Berentsen said she was in shock throughout the whole process, having a difficult time wrapping her head around the death of her daughter. She never suspected or questioned Travis about the situation.
"He was crying, you know," Berentsen said. "He acted like he was remorseful of whatever happened. And, like I said, at the time we just thought she choked. Other than that, no. He didn't really show any signs of anything other than what happened."
Berentsen and the rest of her family have not had contact with Travis since his arrest.
'She touched a lot of people'
Funny. Happy. Silly. Smiley. Energetic. Playful. Loved to dance and make silly noises.
That's how Berentsen and Tina Peters, the grandmother, would describe Grace Lylah.
"She loved everybody," Berentsen said. Adding she was a fairly independent child, never wanting to be picked up by adults.
"For being 2 years old, she touched a lot of people," Peters said.
Friends and family are actively trying to keep Lylah Grace's memory alive, selling t-shirts, wristbands, and decals on the Justice for Lylah Grace Facebook page.
For all of Travis' court appearances, a number of friends and family will attend, wearing t-shirts or sweatshirts with Lylah Grace's image on the front.
They are also positioned in a way that Travis can see them when brought into court. Peters said they want to make Travis feel "uncomfortable" by their presence.
Berentsen said she doesn't attend the court cases anymore, saying she just wants to know when he's sentenced.
For now, Berentsen will focus on her three other kids, Lariah, Lilly Anah and Lyndon.