Former student talks about son’s death

By Staff Writer
September 26, 2002

courtesy of Abigail Bullard

Former Cabrini College student Abigail Bullard, 21, wants to make it clear that she did not go to Atlantic City after her 7-week-old son Talyn Walker died Saturday, Sept. 21, after suffering severe head trauma.

Bullard’s live-in boyfriend, Keith F. Walker, 29, of Conshohocken, has been arrested and charged with two felonies, involuntary manslaughter and third-degree murder, as well as endangering the welfare of a child, which is a misdemeanor.

In the days since Talyn’s death, rumors have been circulating regarding both Bullard and Walker’s involvement and behavior. Bullard wanted to set the record straight about the events that lead up to her son’s death.

“We left the hospital; we were the ones that had to take our child off of life support,” Bullard said. “This shouldn’t be something that I should have to discuss, because my son died in the hospital that day, and for whatever reason, people are now saying that we went to Atlantic City. We went home.”

The events that led up to Talyn’s death are unclear at times, but the story inevitably wraps around Cabrini’s campus and has quickly become fodder for lunchtime discussion. Walker and Bullard met five years ago and were engaged on Sept. 9 of this year. Bullard took time off from school, but would have been a senior, political science major, this year.

The Montgomery County District Attorney’s office officially arrested Walker on Sunday, Sept. 22, one day after taking Talyn off life support. The baby had been on life support for five days. Walker and Bullard were in Limerick visiting family when Walker went to a nearby park for a walk.

According to the official criminal complaint issued by Montgomery County, a 911 hang-up call was reported from Bullard’s Conshohocken home at 6:51 p.m. Bullard said that the operator had just picked up the line when she and Walker decided to take Talyn themselves. Bullard told the operator, “We’re taking him ourselves.” The couple left in such a hurry that their refrigerator door was still open when police officers arrived.

The beginning of the day started out normal with an 11:30 a.m. visit to Talyn’s pediatrician, Dr. Beth Bingaman, which Bullard felt was necessary after noticing a “clicking noise” in Talyn’s rib area when she held him.

Talyn reportedly was not feeling well several days before. He had unexplained bruises on his face and broken blood vessels in his left eye. According to the criminal complaint, Bingaman stated that Talyn may have punched himself or scratched his own eye.

It is unclear whether or not Bingaman suggested Talyn be X-rayed immediately or if he should get X-rayed if the problem persisted through the night. However, the complaint report cites Katherine Hillin, a senior, as witness to a conversation between Bullard and Walker regarding the X-rays. During the course of the conversation, Hillin is said to have heard Walker say that, “I don’t want my kid shot with radiation.”

Bullard refused to comment further but said that Walker did not appear to want the baby to be put through any more.

Following the trip to the pediatrician, Bullard went home and then took the baby to pick up Hillin off campus. The two traveled to campus with Talyn to visit some friends. Bullard then went back to her house in Conshohocken with Hillin to drop Talyn off and show Hillin Bullard and Walker’s new home.

Bullard left Talyn at home with Walker when she took Hillin back to her house. According to Bullard, Talyn was “conscious, responsive, alert and breathing.” She had no reason to believe he would be otherwise, as she had left Talyn with Walker quite often. When she returned home, after being out for around 35 or 40 minutes, Walker told her that he had put Talyn to bed. Prior to that, Walker had played games on his computer with Talyn nearby and bathed Talyn after he soiled his diaper. Walker also noticed that Talyn was “fussy.”

Pizza from the night before was sitting atop the kitchen table as Bullard was opening the refrigerator door. Walker called her name from upstairs, yelling that Talyn was not breathing.

Bullard and Walker raced the infant to Bryn Mawr Hospital, a move that is questioned by many, although defended by Bullard, who felt her only choices were Bryn Mawr Hospital and Montgomery County Hospital. “I still believe I got to Bryn Mawr a whole lot faster than I could have possibly gotten to Montgomery,” Bullard said. “I feel comfortable that I did the right thing.” Even with an ambulance, Bullard feels as though they would not have gotten to the hospital any faster.

Maneuvering through back streets and short cuts, Bullard drove while Walker administered CPR to the lifeless child. The couple would later find out that Talyn’s heart had stopped en route to the emergency room. Bullard and Walker screamed Talyn’s name along the “hectic” drive, listening for his heartbeat.

The staff at Bryn Mawr Hospital was able to stabilize Talyn during the one-and-a-half to two hours that he was there. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia then transported Talyn from Bryn Mawr Hospital to their own.

It was not until the baby got to Children’s Hospital that doctors began to suspect abuse. Dr. Matthew Cox of Children’s Hospital contacted detectives to report a case of “suspected child abuse.”

Dr. Cindy Christian, a specialist in pediatric trauma at Children’s Hospital, examined the infant, upon which she reported that Talyn had suffered “an acute subdural hematoma, multiple rib fractures, a scleral hemorrhage in his left eye, multiple facial bruises and pleural effusion.”

The criminal complaint said that Christian believed the trauma on Talyn’s head to be consistent with “having occurred immediately prior to his presentation at Bryn Mawr Hospital.” Christian said that Talyn’s head trauma was a type that “could cause immediate cessation of breathing.” In other words, the head trauma caused Talyn to stop breathing, therefore killing him.

Christian is also stated as saying that the fractures on Talyn’s ribs included “older, healing fractures,” as well as newer fractures. Christian concluded that Talyn’s injuries were the result of “severe physical abuse.”

Hillin reported that when she arrived at the couple’s house Walker was “yelling” at someone over the phone. Bullard said that Walker was “yelling, but it wasn’t to the point of anger.” She said that Walker even joked after he hung up the phone, saying it was like a telemarketer. Bullard said that the salesman, with a local Audi dealer, had been calling almost to the point of harassment in the past few weeks.

Bullard said, “He was having problems dealing with a specific car salesman who continuously called the house with information that was unnecessary, trying to get [Walker] to buy a car.” According to Bullard, Walker felt that yelling at the salesman would prevent him from calling in the future.

Those who know Walker describe him as being “the nicest guy.” Dave Schiff, a former co-worker of Walker’s, described him as being a “good dad.” Walker was the father of two children from a previous marriage, ages four and five. Most people who knew Walker were in shock. One former co-worker of Walker’s, who asked to remain anonymous, stated that Walker was a “very caring and devoted father.”

Walker was considered to be a good employee and a hard worker who thought everything out. Walker’s former co-worker talked about his love for games, basketball and his Acura. Walker was said to be soft-spoken, a man who loved to buy things for his children.

“He was like a big kid himself,” one former co-worker of Walker’s said. “The person that we knew, who was a loving caring father to his children, is not the person who committed this horrible, heinous crime.”

Walker and Bullard met five years ago and lived together since August of 2001. Bullard said, “You don’t get pregnant by someone, stay with them through the pregnancy, through the birth and through the child’s entire life, which you do assume to be very, very long, if you don’t trust them and you don’t love them.”

Talyn Walker was born on Friday, Aug. 8, and died Saturday, Sept. 21, at 2:00 p.m., after his parents made the decision to remove him from life support.

Dr. Edwin Lieberman, a forensic pathologist at the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s office, performed an autopsy on the body of Talyn, ruling his death a homicide due to head injuries. Upon the examination of Talyn’s 11-and-a-half pounds, 22-and-a-half inch body, Lieberman found multiple injuries, including hemorrhages in both the right and left eyes, a healing rib fracture, a total of 13 broken ribs – seven on the left, six on the right – and a right side subdural hematoma.

Bullard still cannot bear to read the accounts of her son’s death or the rumors of her and Walker’s reaction. “I don’t really know where Atlantic City came from. I have never been to Atlantic City. So, for me to say — when my son passes away, ‘Gee, maybe we should go to Atlantic City,’ that’s almost like me saying, ‘Maybe we should go to Idaho.’ Why would I say that?”

The impending media blitz has also been hard for Bullard to handle. “Dealing with the death of your child is very difficult and the situation, the media, the press, the journalists, the lights and cameras have made it so much the more difficult.”

Listening to Bullard speak about Talyn, one cannot help but feel touched by his brief life. Bullard said she still talks to Talyn “all the time” and feels like he is still with her. “Talyn was very strong; he was beautiful,” Bullard said. Anger has not escaped Bullard as she tries to find the words to describe how she feels. Bullard feels robbed of her young son. “I think I have every emotion you could possibly feel.”

Bullard finds her new home to be too painful, saying, “the house that we have, that home is where my son took his last breaths. You just don’t want to be there.” Bullard also spoke about how she misses being a mother. “I was more comfortable being a mother than not being a mother, and I can’t wait to have more children. I would love to have 10 more. I would love to be a mom again.”

In the meantime, the engagement ring and chain that Walker just gave Bullard are not being worn. Bullard is trying to keep away any reminder of Walker, saying, “It’s very difficult to have reminders of [Walker] around.” Bullard said that the police have been very supportive of both her family and her, and continue to do so. Bullard also said that the nurses at Children’s Hospital were “more than helpful.”

Walker is set for a preliminary hearing before District Justice Francis Bernhardt on Oct. 3. He is being held without bail at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility.

Story detail edited 9/26/02 2:35

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