When Jake Thompson and his wife needed someone to take care of their two youngsters at the Air Force Base in Fairfield, they conducted a thorough search with several possible candidates.
But Gina Bailey, 24, was the name that rose to the top of the list, Jake Wayne Thompson, told NBC Bay Area on Thursday in an exclusive interview.
A Navy wife herself, Bailey came highly recommended, he said, adding that his wife, Whitney, met Bailey and liked the way she interacted with her own 1-year-old son.
"I trusted her with my kids," Thompson said in a somber tone from his parents' home in Utah where he is spending Christmas. "My wife liked the way she was calm and polite. She made my wife feel comfortable."
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Now, the Thompson’s are regretting that choice more than anyone could possibly imagine.
Their 18-month-old son, Thor Wayne Thompson, died on Dec. 18. And on Tuesday, Bailey was arrested in connection with the boy's death.
Fairfield police and the medical examiner allege Bailey shook him so hard he died of severe brain injury. Bailey, who cried profusely during an exclusive jail house interview with NBC affiliate KCRA on Wednesday saying she didn’t do it, pleaded not guilty to to felony assault Thursday in Solano Superior Court. "I never shook the baby," she repeated through sobs.
The judge ordered Bailey held on $750,000 bail.
According to the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome, an estimated 300 babies a year die from being shaken in the United States.
On Dec. 17, the evening before Thor died, the Thompsons dropped their son and daughter, Mila, off about 6 p.m. at Bailey’s house, also on the base. The couple was on their way to Napa for a retirement party. Thompson, too, plans to retire from the U.S. Air Force.
Thompson remembered his young son, whom he described as "the happiest little kid" waving goodbye to him from the window. "He blew me a kiss," he recalled.
That was the last time he saw his son alive.
About 7:45 p.m., Thompson recalled getting a text from Bailey: Thor was really tired and not acting right.
Give him a bottle, he and his wife responded.
So Bailey took both kids to a party that night, Thompson said, and his daughter ended up telling guests what she said she had witnessed. The young girl said that Bailey had allegedly shaken and then dropped Thor, an act that Mila re-enacted with her dolls.
According to Thompson, police told him that Bailey had shaken Thor, who had then slipped out of her hands. "But what the coroner said, and with the damage to his head, that doesn't happen like that" with a simple fall, Thompson said.
When Thompson returned from his party about 9:30 p.m., he saw his son wasn't right. "His head was hanging and there was stuff coming out of his mouth," he said. "There was blood coming out of his nose." He recounted what Bailey told him as she cradled Thor in her arms. "' I didn't know what to do,'" Thompson remembered her saying.
Thor was rushed to the hospital and died the next day, police said.
What’s also awful for the Thompsons is that they never suspected Bailey until police came to them this week.
He even brought over Thor’s old toys and diapers for her son, since his was gone. Thompson couldn’t part with Thor’s favorite zebra scooter, however, and bought one for Bailey’s child on Amazon, he said. "I just couldn't stomach giving it away," he said. "So I purchased another one."
For now, the Thompsons are with family in Utah, where they likely will move to. And they are left with an empty hole in their hearts and a stocking with an angel and Thor’s name on it hanging on their Christmas tree.
"I had no clue," he said. "This is all just a shock. There is nothing that can be done to bring my son back."
NBC Bay Area's Lisa Fernandez contributed to this report.