KANEOHE, EWA BEACH (HawaiiNewsNow) - A 14-month-old homicide victim suffered his head injuries nearly a year ago and had been fighting to stay alive ever since.
The Honolulu Medical Examiner's office identified the baby as Zayden Lonergan.
Kulana Malama in Ewa Beach provides long-term care for medically-fragile children, some of whom require ventilator support to stay alive. It's where 14-month-old Zayden Lonergan had been receiving specialized care after suffering skull and brain trauma.
Sources familiar with the case say the injuries were consistent with shaken baby syndrome.
"Their brain often is traumatized by just shaking," Howard Klemmer, MD, emergency room physician, said. "They can get tears of the vessels in the brain. The brain can bounce back and forth in the cranial vault, causing traumatic injury and bleeding internally."
Dr. Klemmer did not treat Zayden, but is familiar with the injuries associated with shaken baby.
Military officials say the baby was taken unconscious to the federal fire station at Marine Corps Base Hawaii and then transferred to Castle Medical Center in March of last year.
He had been living with his parents on the base in Kaneohe at the time. His father is Marine Sgt. David Lonergan.
Navy investigators say the little boy never regained consciousness.
"It's always harder on children, but you can have a coma at any age," Klemmer said. "Comatose victims are hard to determine when they will or if ever regain consciousness."
Zayden took a turn for the worse and died at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children earlier this week. An autopsy found he died of complications from the head injuries.
What began as a child abuse case is now a homicide. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is leading the probe.
"No one is in custody and no charges have been filed," Ed Buice, NCIS public affairs officer, said.
"(Marine Corps Base) Hawaii takes very seriously allegations of child neglect and abuse," 1st Lt. Diann Olson, MCBH public affairs officer, said. "Those found responsible will be held accountable."
"It's very tough, very hard," Klemmer said about cases involving children. "It's very, very sad."