By Joyce May
Killeen Daily Herald
GATESVILLE — A Copperas Cove man on Friday pleaded not guilty to two charges, including one for capital murder, in connection with the injury and death of his 23-month-old son.
Antoine Shields, 28, was arraigned in 52nd District Court before Judge Phillip Zeigler on one count of capital murder and one count of first-degree felony injury to a child in the March 24 death of Keyken Vanhardenberg-Wade.
Coryell County District Attorney David Castillo said he has not yet determined whether he will seek the death penalty.
“Each case has to be evaluated independently. We will look at the totality of the circumstances to make that decision,” Castillo said.
Zeigler did not set a date for Shields’ next court appearance.
“He is contemplating contacting a death penalty-certified defense attorney in anticipation of a death penalty being sought, which he is required to do by law,” Castillo said.
Anthony L. Smith of Temple is the court-appointed attorney for Shields, who was indicted Tuesday by a Coryell County grand jury.
Smith said he plans to remain on the case, but he is not certified by the Court of Criminal Appeals as a death penalty-qualified attorney, and therefore may have to take second chair if the state pursues capital punishment.
“He is deeply saddened by the death of his child,” Smith said of his client. “This is a good opportunity to educate the public on signs of internal injuries and to know they need to seek medical help, especially young, inexperienced parents.”
The toddler’s mother, 22-year-old Tashawna Vanhardenberg, also was indicted Tuesday on three counts of injury to a child. Her arraignment is scheduled for May 25.
The indictment charged Shields with the death of his son by “striking or causing (Vanhardenberg-Wade) to strike an unknown object or surface” and then causing serious bodily injury by omission for subsequently failing to obtain reasonable medical care.
Vanhardenberg also was accused of striking her son and failing to obtain medical care and was charged with causing serious bodily injury by failing to protect the child from Shields, according to the indictment.
The grand jury decided the appropriate charges for each parent based on an investigation conducted by the Copperas Cove Police Department and the Texas Rangers, Castillo said.
According to the arrest affidavits, Shields and Vanhardenberg told police conflicting accounts of the events leading up to the child’s death.
Police records state the parents told officers upon arrival the boy was injured when one of his siblings pulled a microwave down on top of the child’s head at the Cactus Motel in Copperas Cove.
However, when questioned separately, Shields told officers the child was injured when Vanhardenberg threw the boy and caught him by the leg, causing him to hit his head on the floor.
According to the affidavit, Shields said that he “was able to hear the bone shatter and break and that Keyken was then unable to walk or respond.”
When Vanhardenberg was questioned, however, she told police she had been away from home but returned to find the child, who was unresponsive, being held in the shower by Shields, the affidavit states.
Shields and Vanhardenberg failed to notify authorities and emergency personnel until at least one hour after the injury occurred, the arrest affidavit states.
The two are being held in the Coryell County Jail. Their bonds were set at $400,000 apiece.
Contact Joyce May at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 547-0428