‘You need to get home now. The baby’s not breathing’: Mother testifies how she learned of daughter’s emergency

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QUINCY — Christina Engle was at work at a local fast-food restaurant during the afternoon of Jan. 20, 2018, when she was told she had a phone call and that she had an emergency. On the line was her boyfriend, Travis Wiley.

The words she heard from Wiley began a nightmare that changed her life forever.

“He said, ‘You need to get home now. The baby’s not breathing,’ ” Engle said during her testimony during the second day of Wiley’s first-degree murder trial in Adams County Circuit Court. “I kind of did the ‘WTF’ and dropped the phone, and then I had to go.”

Engle’s heart-breaking testimony helped paint a picture for the nine-woman, three-man jury about what she believed happened in the death of her 2-month-old daughter, Airyana Hoffman, who died two days later.

Wiley, 35, is accused of shaking Airyana on Jan. 20, 2018, and she died two days later at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis. Wiley was arrested June 20, 2018, and remains in the Adams County Jail on a $5 million bond. If he’s found guilty, a minimum sentence for first-degree murder would be 20 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections, with a maximum sentence of 60 years.

Engle’s testimony took up much of the morning session and the first part of the afternoon session Tuesday before Judge Michael Atterberry.

Engle, who was separated from husband Aaron Dunford at the time, said she had known Wiley for 10 years. She offered to let him stay with her because he needed a place to stay, and he had been in her apartment at 718 Kentucky for approximately two months. She said an intimate relationship developed with him.

She told Special Prosecutor Jon Barnard there were no complications with Airyana’s birth or prenatal care. In the days before Airyana’s death, she was teething and occasionally constipated. Engle called her “perfectly fine” and said Ariyana “babbled like a baby does.”

“She was a very, very happy baby,” Engle said.

“Any red flags at all?” Barnard asked.

Engle said she told Wiley if Airyana’s teething or constipation got worse to call her, and she would come home. She said she had left Airyana with Wiley “maybe five or six times” previously.

After Wiley called her at the restaurant, Engle said she called him back and asked why he hadn’t called 911 — but he hung up. She called 911 herself.

“I just panicked,” she said.

She said she also called Airyana’s father, Jordan Padgett, before she got home. When she pulled up, she said Wiley was walking out of the apartment with a cigarette in his mouth while putting a jacket on.

“Where’s my baby?” she said.

Engle said Wiley’s reply was, “Oh, she’s in here.”

Engle then said she went inside and found her daughter in a bassinet called a Rock ‘N Play.

“She wasn’t breathing, her lips were blue and she was gray,” Engle said while fighting tears.

Engle said she picked up Airyana, then laid her on the ground and tried to give her CPR, but Airyana didn’t respond.

She then picked up her baby and ran out the back door when she heard sirens. She was screaming, “Help my baby.” She said she fell to the ground and put Airyana in the grass. A Quincy police officer, previously identified during earlier testimony as Andrew Abbott, then hooked up the baby to an automated external defibrillator to help restart her heart.

Airyana eventually was placed in an ambulance and taken to Blessing Hospital. Engle said her daughter never breathed on her own, but doctors got her heart to start. Airyana then was transported to Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis. Engle drove with Padgett and two other people to St. Louis that night and stayed there until Jan. 23. Airyana was placed in the pediatric intensive care unit.

“Did Airyana’s condition improve?” Barnard asked.

“No,” Engle said.

She said she baptized her daughter on the afternoon of Jan. 22. After a second neurological test was done at 9:30 that night, Christina authorized taking her daughter off life support and allowed for an autopsy to be performed the next day.

She said she never talked with Wiley after she left Quincy for Cardinal Glennon.

Under cross-examination by Chief Public Defender Todd Nelson, Engle said Airyana was fussy about “four or five” days before Jan. 20, 2018. However, she said Airyana’s temperature wasn’t high and she wasn’t particularly warm.

Nelson then asked Engle about one occasion when she said Airyana held her breath. Engle said it happened for “five or six seconds” before normal breathing resumed.

During re-direct, Barnard asks how many times Airyana held her breath.

“Just that one time,” Christina said.

Engle testified she was married to Aaron Dunford for eight years, but she was going through a divorce when she allowed Wiley to move into her apartment. She told the jury she married Matthew Engle on June 11, 2022. Airyana took her mother’s maiden name.

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