Suffocated girl brought back to life in child abuse case

Local News

A 26 page police report details the unreported abuse of a young Galesburg girl and the adults in her life who knew about it

GALESBURG, Illinois — Local 4 News is investigating a case of child abuse, in which police say a suffocated girl was brought back to life by her abuser.

It starts with the attempted murder of a little girl in Galesburg that went unreported for at least two years.

Now, police are pressing charges against 30-year-old Joshua Hasselbacher — the man they say is responsible.

The Knox County Sheriff’s Department served him an arrest warrant last week for attempted murder. Hasselbacher is already serving time in Stateville Correctional Center for another crime.

A 26-page arrest report from the sheriff’s department details a disturbing case of abuse.

Police records don’t give an exact date for the incident. Interviewees said it either happened in 2015, 2016 or possibly 2017. It happened at the Country Elms Estates, where Joshua Hasselbacher lived with his then-girlfriend, her two sons and daughter.

At least eight people told authorities one day Hasselbacher killed his girlfriends daughter and “brought her back to life.”

The girl’s brothers told police it started when their sister, who is now six, wouldn’t stop crying.

Hasselbacher ran her into the kitchen, put her head in the freezer, closed the door and held her there for an hour.

The girl “cried the whole time,” according to reports.

When Hasselbacher pulled her out, one of the brothers said his sister’s face was purple.

Then Hasselbacher took her to his bed where he suffocated her with a pillow.

A friend of Hasselbacher told police Hasselbacher later confided in him saying, “I beat the s*** out of her, put a pillow over her face and smothered her, then did CPR and brought her back.”

“I beat the s*** out of her, put a pillow over her face and smothered her, then did CPR and brought her back.”

Knox County Sheriff’s Department records

Police interviews revealed that Hasselbacher also called his father, James Hasselbacher, during the incident and told him the girl had “lost her breath” and he revived her.

Hasselbacher told the girl’s mom she passed out and was probably bit by a spider or had low iron.

But the mom noticed the girl had black eyes, “but didn’t think much more of the incident at that time.”

When she found out the truth later she didn’t call police because “she didn’t want to believe it,” but she did tell her mom.

Then in fall 2016, police records say the girl’s mom told Hasselbacher’s parents what happened.

The next summer his parents were babysitting the girl and found “mold on the child’s medicine dropper and maggots in socks.”

When Hasselbacher’s father James confronted him about it, Hasselbacher also admitted to suffocating the girl, according to police records.

He said he did it because he saw a “demon” in her face and tried to kill it.

“He said he did it because he saw a ‘demon’ in her face and tried to kill it.”

Knox County Sheriff’s Department records

James told authorities about the mold and maggots, but not the assault.

Police records show that James said “his son is often times uncontrollable when he is on CQ pills (cold pills for high blood pressure), becomes very angry, and wants to fight and that he also sees demons while on these pills.”

Local 4 News contacted James for this story, but he told us he would “press charges” if we tried to contact him or his family again about Hasselbacher.

A friend of Hasselbacher’s, who said he served in the military with him from 2008-2013, told police Hasselbacher had PTSD and started drinking and using drugs in 2009.

It wasn’t until the Department of Children and Family Services started investigating the mold and maggots complaint they uncovered the story of attempted murder this March.

The girl’s brothers told police in interviews that they saw Hasselbacher beat their mother. One said Hasselbacher had kicked him in the nose.

The girl’s maternal grandmother also told police the girl has recently said Hasselbacher “punched, tried drowning, and would put her head in the freezer and slam it on her head” multiple times, according to the report.

The grandmother also said she thought the suffocation incident had been reported to police. The documents say there is no record of it.

Hasselbacher also told a friend after suffocating the girl “she looked at him and told him that ‘It’s OK!’ which broke his heart.'”

If you believe a child is being abused you can report it by calling or texting the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453.

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