Suspended N.J. Police Officer Charged With Murder of 3-Month-Old Daughter

Christine Pelisek

A suspended New Jersey police officer is behind bars in connection with the murder of his three-month-old daughter.

Daniel Bannister, 31, was charged Wednesday in the December 2018 death of Hailey Bannister. Hailey’s mother, Catherine Bannister, 29, was charged with second-degree endangering the welfare of a child.

“The nature of Hailey’s injuries indicated an ongoing pattern of abuse,” Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo J. Onofri said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE.

The Middlesex County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled that Hailey died from complications from blunt impact trauma of the head including skull fractures and subdural hemorrhage.

The case came to light on December 5, when Ewing Township Emergency Medical Services responded to the Bannisters’ home in Ewing on a report of “an unresponsive three-month-old baby having difficulty breathing,” according to Onofri’s statement.

Daniel and Catherine Bannister | Mercer County Prosecutor's Office

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The 911 call to the dispatcher was made by Catherine Bannister, NJ.com reported.

“She’s breathing extremely funny,” she said, according to NJ.com, which obtained a recording of the call. “She’s barely breathing. She was just diagnosed with reflux, but right now she’s almost barely conscious.”

“My husband is an officer so he’s working with her, but we need help,” she allegedly told the 911 operator.

Hailey, who was not breathing and in cardiac arrest when first responders arrived, was taken to Capital Health Medical Center – Hopewell. Medical staff concluded that Hailey had a fractured skull, brain bleed and multiple fractured ribs. She was transferred in critical condition to Robert Wood Johnson Children’s Hospital in New Brunswick, where she died on Dec. 11.

Law enforcement began investigating the incident “due to the suspicious nature of the girl’s injuries,” according to Onofri’s statement.

Daniel Bannister was employed as an officer with the Ewing Township Police Department since May of 2017. He was suspended from the force in December after the incident.

The Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office has filed a motion to detain the couple pending trial.

Daniel and Catherine Bannister made their initial appearances in Mercer County Superior Court today via video conference.  They both entered pleas of not guilty to their individual charges, according to the Mercer County District Attorney’s office.

Detention motions will be heard in both cases at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, July 23, pending any adjournments.

It is unclear if Daniel Bannister has retained an attorney. Catherine Bannister’s attorney could not be reached for comment.