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Mystery surrounds Edmond baby's homicide

Panic heard in 911 calls to Edmond police. Almost nine months later, no one has been arrested.
BY NOLAN CLAY, RANDY ELLIS AND ROBBY TRAMMELL Modified: November 28, 2011 at 3:50 pm •  Published: November 27, 2011

© 2011, The Oklahoman

EDMOND — Justice for Jake may never come.

The Edmond baby, Jacob “Jake” Ryan Hedger, was killed in March. He suffered a head injury so traumatic his small skull cracked.

Almost nine months later, no one has been arrested. “We'd like to find out who killed this child,” Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater said. “There are times when we don't ever have enough evidence to charge the perpetrator.”

Jake, who was almost 9 months old, died one day after he was taken by ambulance from his baby sitter's Edmond home. The baby sitter, Traci Kramer, 41, is the wife of a drug lab supervisor at the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. She was operating an unlicensed home day care.

Jake's death was ruled a homicide.

“One of the doctors had likened it to breaking up a bag of ice,” Jake's father, Zane Hedger, 41, said of the fatal injury.

Edmond police officials said they still are working to find “justice for this baby,” but they have shrouded the investigation in secrecy from the start. At issue is when the baby was hurt — before or after he arrived at the baby sitter's home the morning of March 8.

Death's time disputed

Two physicians at The Children's Hospital at OU Medical Center, where Jake died, reported they “believed that based on the nature of the injury and the time of contact to EMSA … it was an injury that occurred while he was in the care of the day care and not his parents,” a DHS report shows. The forensic pathologist who did the autopsy, though, would not narrow the time down that far.

Police have hired a new expert to try to pinpoint the time of the fatal injury.

Also at issue is whether the police inquiry has been compromised because of the OSBI connection.

The baby's parents — who say police have not cleared them — are so frustrated they wish some other agency could take over. They deny they hurt their son.

“It's ridiculous,” said Jake's mother, Leah Hedger, 36.

“A baby — my baby, our baby — has been murdered,” the second-grade teacher said. “We're just waiting. It's almost like, ‘The longer we let it go, you'll just forget about it.' … Well, that's not an option for us.”

She said she is tired of hearing from police and others that this is such a strange case and how “everybody knows the Hedgers and everybody knows the Kramers and they're both really nice families.”

She said, “I need my son's murder solved.”

Jake's death

Jake stopped breathing the afternoon of March 8, a Tuesday. He had been with his baby sitter for about seven hours when she called 911, records show.

The baby sitter's husband, Kevin Lee Kramer, is a longtime criminalist supervisor at the OSBI drug lab. He helped train Edmond police officers in 2004 and 2007, the OSBI said.

Three state legislators raised the issue of possible undue influence with OSBI Director Stan Florence. They notified the director that an OSBI employee had asked the medical examiner's office in an email when the autopsy report would be completed.

“There is a concern, I will tell you, that you've got a family here where somebody works for a really important law enforcement agency. It just makes you ask yourself a lot of questions,” said one of the legislators, state Rep. Jason Nelson, who has talked to the Hedgers.

“I don't have a lot of answers for them yet,” said Nelson, R-Oklahoma City.

Nelson also said: “I'm not saying that I think somebody in the police department is doing anything inappropriate. I just want to make sure that people are looking at that, to make sure that is not happening.”

Traci Kramer denied hurting the boy. Her attorney, Gary James, said she “loved children. She has cared for children for a long period of time. … There has never been a question about her.”

The Department of Human Services on March 9 ordered Traci Kramer to cease caring for children because she was operating without a license.

The parents said they asked doctors what happened to their son and whether he could have simply been dropped. They said they were told it was no accident.

Dr. Chai Choi, a longtime forensic pathologist at the medical examiner's office, determined the boy had skull fractures and died from “blunt force head trauma.” The autopsy showed he also had pneumonia.

Parents voice concerns

Jake's parents complain the police have not interviewed key witnesses, including the boy's aunt and grandmother, who saw him the weekend before his death.

“They've never asked me a question. Not one,” said the aunt, Tammy Padgett.

Particularly upsetting to the parents is that police claim the Hedgers are not cooperating because they won't take a police polygraph test. They said they have cooperated with police and, in April, passed a polygraph test they paid for themselves.

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At a glance

Panic heard in two 911 calls

In two emotional 911 calls March 8, baby sitter Traci Kramer cries out a baby boy's nickname and, in a hysterical voice, says, “Oh, God! What do I do?”

Police refused to make public the recordings of Kramer's calls for help for Jacob “Jake” Hedger, whose death has been ruled a homicide. The Oklahoman obtained the recordings from a source.

In the first brief call, a panting Kramer cries, “Jake! Jake!” An operator says, “Dang it. This is ridiculous.”

In the second longer call, an operator tells Kramer, then 40, to stay on the phone, then switches her to an EMSA worker. The EMSA worker quickly asks her some questions and then calmly instructs her on how to help the baby breathe until paramedics arrive.

“Hurry fast!” Kramer said. “I was getting him up from his nap to get my daughter and he was like just not there. … I don't see his chest moving. … I found him this way. … His lips are purple.”

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