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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

Zane Hedger said he absolutely wishes another agency could take over the investigation.

“Grand jury, sheriff's office, we don't know,” he said.

The father said he would be against the FBI taking over because Edmond Police Chief Bob Ricks worked there.

“I can't believe I'm sitting here saying that, but what are we supposed to think at this point?” Zane Hedger said.

The parents said they are raising money to hire a new forensic expert themselves.

Ricks declined to be interviewed for this story.

Edmond police spokeswoman Glynda Chu stated in an email that the police department is paying for a new child forensic expert.

She also said: “If anyone is dragging feet, it is the parents by not cooperating with the police, refusing to take a police polygraph and refusing to be interviewed by police.”

“This is an investigation into the death of a child. The integrity of this investigation is of the utmost importance to the Edmond Police Department,” Chu said. “Nothing will be done in any way to jeopardize this investigation.”

The police spokeswoman said police asked the baby sitter to take a polygraph test, too, several times, but her attorney has not yet made her available. The baby sitter's attorney, James, gave a different version, saying she has not been — to his knowledge — formally asked for a polygraph test. He said he won't agree to a polygraph test anyway because he considers such tests unreliable.

Florence, the OSBI director, said he is confident the Edmond Police Department is conducting an independent investigation. He said Kevin Kramer's supervisor did ask when the autopsy report would be done, but did not follow up and actually get the report. The director said he is reviewing whether anything else was done.

“I want to make sure there's nothing more to it,” Florence said.

Before the death

Jake had been home sick with his father the week before his death. Zane Hedger was unemployed at the time.

Jake was with a different baby sitter March 7. Jake was dropped off about 7:50 a.m. March 8 at Traci Kramer's house. She called 911 shortly after 3 p.m. because he wasn't breathing, DHS records show. She said she discovered the problem when she tried to wake him up from a nap.

She told a DHS worker and a police detective Jake had been fussy at times during the day but was “acting happy go lucky” in the morning, the DHS reports show. She called the Hedgers “wonderful parents.”

Jake had been injured before, suffering a fractured arm two months earlier, records show. Both the parents and Traci Kramer knew about the injury, but all three told investigators they don't know who did it. His mother took him to be examined. She said the doctor reported he was hurt by someone pulling on his arm.

A prosecutor who specializes in child deaths met June 15 with an Edmond police detective, Dr. John Stuemky and Choi. Stuemky, a child-abuse expert, is one of the doctors who concluded the injury happened at the day care. The prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney SuAnne Carlson, decided she could not charge anyone yet with murder because Choi could not narrow down the time of the fatal injury.

Choi's boss, Chief Medical Examiner Eric Pfeifer, declined to comment because he may someday have to testify about the death. He said in an email, “This is a very difficult case being reviewed by forensic pathologists around the country.”

Suspicious to prosecutors is evidence suggesting Traci Kramer called her husband before calling 911, The Oklahoman has learned. Also, Traci Kramer did not notify Jake's parents about their son's emergency. They found out by happenstance.

Traci Kramer's attorney interprets the evidence from the autopsy as showing Jake suffered the skull fractures before he came to the Kramers' house March 8. He called that evidence “literally … my acquittal” if Traci Kramer is charged.

The attorney, James, said the prosecution expert, Stuemky, has been wrong before.

James said he has hired two of the top experts in the world, a forensic pathologist and the chief of pediatric intensive care at a hospital. The attorney would not identify the experts. He said the forensic pathologist determined the injuries are old and outside the time frame his client was with the child.

Illness possible cause

He said the second expert, the hospital pediatrician, believes Jake may have stopped breathing because of the baby's respiratory illness the week before.

He said Traci Kramer did not call Jake's parents because police told her not to call them. The attorney did not make the Kramers available for an interview with The Oklahoman.

“It's a big … whodunit,” James said.

Concerns about the day care have come up before. John Keene, 36, of Edmond, told The Oklahoman he stopped taking his daughter, then 1, there in 2005 after a series of troubling incidents including a cheek abrasion.

“It was one of those situations that just didn't feel right,” Keene said.

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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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