Justice for Baby Gunner #2: Search Warrant for Suspect Father's Phone Released
Affidavit claims Noah Bliss handed blue-faced infant to nurse
The application for a warrant to search the phone of the father accused of fatally "shaking" his newborn son at WakeMed last year has been released, revealing previously undisclosed details relevant to allegations.
For context, or a refresher, checkout the first article in this series, which summarizes the facts of the case:
Application for Search Warrant (October 17, 2023)
Ronnie Weiss, a Seargeant Detective with the WakeMed Police Department, filed for a warrant to search a smartphone belonging to Noah Bliss, the Harnett County man charged with murder in the death of his infant son, Gunner. The search warrant was applied for and executed on October 17: 11 days after Bliss allegedly "shook" Baby Gunner, 4 days after Bliss was arrested and charged with felony child abuse, and 1 day after Baby Gunner was removed from life support and Bliss was charged with first degree murder.
The Probable Cause Affidavit included in the warrant has a number of obvious errors, from basic grammatical mistakes to misspelling and the incorrect month in the very first paragraph. However, if we are to take the claims made in this affidavit at face value, there are a few which particularly stand out:
#1: “When Savannah Bliss and RN Lavern Lilly returned to the Bliss's room, they were met at the door by Noah Bliss...He gave ______ wrapped in a blanket, to RN Lilly. When RN Lilly looked at ______ complexion was blue in color.”
Although not explicitly stated, it's implied that Noah Bliss did not make any attempt to call for medical assistance for Baby Gunner, even though the baby was in medical distress, with a "blue" face.
#2: “Laura Edwards, MD stated that ______ had an unusually high blood pressure for that of a newborn.”
I couldn't find high blood pressure (hypertension) reported as a consequence of Shaken Baby Syndrome, but I was able to easily find a documented association with Intraventricular Hemorrhage (IVH) as a "complication" of premature birth:
"Factors that contribute to IVH include hypotension, hypertension, fluctuating blood pressures, poor autoregulation of cerebral blood flow, disturbances in coagulation, hyperosmolarity, and injury to the vascular endothelium by oxygen free radicals."
#3: "The nursing staff stated that Savannah Bliss appeared to be very upset about ______ but the father did not appear to show any emotion."
While not direct evidence of murder, a claim like this is obviously not a fact you want as part of the record if you are being charged with murder.
#4: “On 10/13/2023 Mr. Bliss called Johnston County Sheriff's Office and told them that he was rocking the baby and may have done it too hard.”
This alleged admission is particularly interesting to me because it is not, in fact, behavior that would fit the theory of Shaken Baby Syndrome. According to the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome, the following actions cannot cause SBS injuries:
Bouncing a baby on your knee.
Tossing a baby in the air.
Jogging or bicycling with your baby.
Falls off a couch or other furniture.
Sudden stops in a car or driving over bumps.
Prosecutors are only able to argue that Shaken Baby Syndrome deaths qualify for the highest level of murder charges by having experts testify that the level of force required to create such injuries could not be inflicted unintentionally or without malice.
So, with that in mind, there's two ways I could interpret this admission (if true):
Bliss did violently assault Baby Gunner, and made this admission in an attempt to downplay his behavior
Bliss did not violently assault Baby Gunner, but he had likely been told by medical professionals and law enforcement for a week, at this point, that there was no possible explanation for Baby Gunner's injuries besides his own behavior, and this statement was an attempt to rationalize that with his non-violent behavior
#5: “After JCSO left Mr. Bliss got in his car and told his wife he was going to Fl because he did not want to go to jail for Murder. Mr. Bliss eventually returned home.”
Once again, even though Bliss did not end up fleeing the state, this is not a fact pattern which reflects positively on a defendant.
#6: “When he was arrested his cellphone was seized. ADA Katie Pomeroy and I have been listening to Bliss's Jail calls and in the calls, he talks about there being something on his phone he doesn't want anyone to see.”
A good reminder that the government can and will eavesdrop on any communication to or from anyone held in a prison or jail (possibly even when they are prohibited from doing so). The document we have is only the application for the search warrant, not the results, so we have no idea whether law enforcement did find anything on Bliss' device(s).
Conclusion: the Presumption of Innocence and the Adversarial System
Once again, I will remind all of you that our judicial system works on the principle of "innocent until proven guilty".
In addition, our judicial system is an adversarial system. A criminal case has two sides: the state, arguing for prosecution, and the defendant, arguing against. A filing by either party is an argument for its side of the case; it is generally appropriate to take the claims made by either side with a grain of salt.
This principle may be especially applicable in a one-sided filing like this application for a search warrant, where the defendant is not provided an opportunity to rebut the claims made therein. The claims made in this filing should be considered, at best, a set of true facts which were specifically selected in order to cast the defendant in the worst light in order give the filing the greatest chance of succeeding.
Full text of the Probable Cause Affidavit from the Application for Search Warrant (10/17/2023)
PROBABLE CAUSE AFFIDAVIT
On Friday, September 6th, 2023, I Officer Hughes was contacted by Clinical Administrator (CA) Dai Tworek in reference to patient _______________________ 2023). CA Tworek stated that ______________ and his twin sister are about twenty days old. She stated that ______ had been discharged from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and his parents are being provided a room in the Heart Center Inn. His mother Savannah Bliss and father Noah Bliss would be staying in the Heart Center Inn until his twin sister was discharged from the NICU. While Savannah Bliss was in an education on how to care for the two infants, Noah Bliss was left to care for their one-year-old toddler and infant ______. When Savannah Bliss and RN Lavern Lilly returned to the Bliss's room, they were met at the door by Noah Bliss. RN Lavern advised CA Tworek that she saw the toddler running around in the room, but never saw ______. He gave ______ wrapped in a blanket, to RN Lilly. When RN Lilly looked at ______ complexion was blue in color. RN Lilly along with Savannah Bliss took ______ to the nearest nursing station, being 3A. Nursing staff at 3A began infant CPR on ______, he was then moved to NICU room 39. I met with CA Teorek, RN Amanda Foshay, Social Work Manager Ryan Koprowski and Laura Edwards, MD. Laura Edwards, MD stated that ______ had an unusually high blood pressure for that of a newborn. She advised me that she would request a trauma examination on ______ when he was more stable. Social Worker Koprowski stated that once she found out more information from the trauma exam, she would contact Child Protective Services if needed. The nursing staff stated that Savannah Bliss appeared to be very upset about ______ but the father did not appear to show any emotion.
I Sgt Weiss have attempted several times to reach out to Noah Bill and him refused to talk to me. On 10/13/2023 Mr. Bliss called Johnston County Sheriff's Office and told them that he was rocking the baby and may have done it too hard. After JCSO left Mr. Bliss got in his car and told his wife he was going to Fl because he did not want to go to jail for Murder. Mr. Bliss eventually returned home.
Bliss was arrest on Friday 10/13/2023 for felony child abuse. When he was arrested his cellphone was seized. ADA Katie Pomeroy and I have been listening to Bliss's Jail calls and in the calls, he talks about there being something on his phone he doesn't want anyone to see. Mr. Bliss was charged with 1st degree murder on 10/16/2023.
Full Application for Search Warrant: