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Babysitter Accused of Abusing Boy So Badly He Needed Portion of Skull Removed: 'Thought He Was Dead'

McKinley Slone Hernandez, 25, has pleaded not guilty to charges of child abuse - cruelty

<p>Danielle Allaire/GoFundMe</p> Giovanni Reichert

Danielle Allaire/GoFundMe

Giovanni Reichert

A Colorado woman is facing criminal charges after police say she severely injured a 2-year-old in her care that left him in and out of the ICU for months.

On Nov. 23, 2023, McKinley Slone Hernandez, 25, was arrested and charged with child abuse in the case of Giovanni DiStefano, the Lakewood Police Department has said.

"I thought he was dead," Giovanni's father, Anthony DiStefano, tells PEOPLE about the moment he found out his son was in the hospital.

He and Giovanni's mother are still traumatized from the ordeal months later.

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"It happened so fast," he says. "Still to this day we haven't been able to process it."

The boy’s mother, Stefanie Reichert, alleges that Hernandez injured her son Giovanni so severely that doctors had to remove part of his skull, she told KDVR last November.

“She won’t admit to anything,” Reichert told KDVR. “All she’s said is she was drinking, and he got hurt in her care.”

On Sept. 1, 2023, Reichert's son was staying overnight with Hernandez, according to a Jefferson County Warrant Arrest Affidavit obtained by PEOPLE.

Reichert wasn't planning to leave him with Hernandez overnight, but she said Hernandez offered to watch him on Aug. 30 and Aug. 31, 2023, because Hernandez had just had a medical procedure and wasn't feeling well and thought the boy's presence could make her feel better, the affidavit says.

"I'm just in pain and he's just being a cuddle bug watching tv with me," she allegedly texted the boy's mother on Aug. 30, 2023, the affidavit says. Hernandez offered to keep him the night of Aug. 31 at no charge, it says.

Hernandez often asked if the boy could stay overnight, Reichert said, according to the affidavit.

Reichert provided authorities with text messages she allegedly exchanged with Hernandez on the night of Sept. 1, 2021.

"You guys need to rush to st Anthony's hospitals," Hernandez allegedly texted Reichert at 8:17 p.m. that night, according to the affidavit. The child, she allegedly texted, "just went weak after the bath and we rushed him here."

Reichert told KDVR that when she got to the hospital and “saw him and all the 50 doctors standing around him, I had to leave the room because it was the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”

<p>Lakewood Police Department </p> McKinley Slone Hernandez

Lakewood Police Department

McKinley Slone Hernandez

A hospital employee told the detective that Hernandez said she had given the boy a bath that night and when she finished, he "appeared lifeless and stopped breathing," the affidavit says.

Doctors in the ER said the child had suffered a subdural hematoma — bleeding of the brain often caused by a head injury; bruising on his head; a slap mark on his right hip and a bite mark on his right elbow, and signs of hemorrhaging on his collarbone, cheek and nose, the affidavit says.

The injuries were consistent with non-accidental trauma, hospital personnel said, adding that if the child survived, he would have significant quality of life issues, the affidavit states.

Hernandez was unable to explain how the boy sustained his injuries, the hospital employee told the detective, the affidavit alleges.

The boy was airlifted to Children's Hospital in Aurora.

Giovanni is still trying to heal from his injuries. "He's doing better every day," says Anthony. "But there is a long road ahead."

Disturbing Footage on Ring Camera

According to the affidavit, Hernandez allegedly admitted to having been drinking the day of the incident, but insisted that she did not drink in the house.

Investigators obtained Ring camera footage from Sept. 1, 2023, showing the boy allegedly "falling" out of a camper parked on her property at about 7:30 p.m., according to the affidavit. "Based on the video, it appears that he was pushed out," the affidavit claims.

Hernandez is seen carrying the boy back to her home and appears to bite his right arm, the affidavit alleges.

According to the affidavit, Hernandez was with her boyfriend at the time, who after observing the boy's injuries, is allegedly heard being said on the Ring footage saying, "Dude, he's dead," before he starts crying.

The two try to rouse the boy, before they get in the car to bring the boy to the hospital, the affidavit, citing the Ring footage, states.

In a GoFundMe set up to raise money for the boy's medical expenses, a family friend wrote that before Sept. 1, 2023, Giovanni “was a happy, healthy, energetic” 2-year-old. “As you can imagine, his parents Anthony and Stefanie are completely distraught.”

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Hernandez appeared in court on March 18 and pleaded not guilty, the director of public affairs for Colorado First Judicial District Attorney’s Office confirmed to PEOPLE.

She remains held on $100,000 bond. The court denied a request to modify the bond, the district attorney's office said.

She is scheduled to return to court on May 9.

For Reichert, she says she and her family are living a nightmare.

“You never would think it would happen to you," she told 9 News.

An attorney for Hernandez could not be reached for comment.

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Read the original article on People.