Lindsay Melissa Partin is almost afraid to close her eyes at night at the Dayton Correctional Institution, a maximum-security women’s prison in Ohio.
When she does, she dreams of hugging her daughters, now six and seven. However, when she wakes, reality comes crashing down: she is stuck in a living nightmare within a 10ft x 5ft cell for a crime she says she didn’t commit.
‘I love and miss my daughters so much it hurts,’ admits Lindsay, 40. ‘This is not how I envisioned motherhood.’
In 2019, Lindsay was convicted of murdering three-year-old Hannah Wesche, a neighbour’s child who she was babysitting.
A jury was told Lindsay had shaken and hit the little girl, leaving her brain dead. They also heard how she had admitted to it, then changed her story.
The case gained coverage across the world, but Lindsay turned down repeated requests for interviews, until now.
Three years into her life sentence, Lindsay has given a series of exclusive interviews with Metro.co.uk, and reveals she has discovered a photo that could prove her innocence. However, the mum admits she’s anxious about speaking publicly – and with good reason, she adds.
‘My words were misconstrued once before and it landed me here, so I am somewhat apprehensive,’ she says.
For each prison visit Lindsay greets us in her stock, facility-issued outfit: light blue button-down shirt and dark blue pants. At 4’ 11, she is petite with straight blonde hair. You can smell the apple-scented shampoo she favours.
As she speaks, her tone is low and she remains calm – although her eyes fill up when she talks about her children.
‘I want the world to know I am implicitly innocent,’ Lindsay tells Metro.co.uk. ‘I would never hurt anyone, especially a child.’
According to the mum of two, toddler Hannah collapsed in her garage on March 8, 2018. Until that day, Lindsay, who has an associate’s degree in pre-childhood education, was trying to create her ‘dream life’.
At the time she was working as a bookkeeper for her father, a Mary Kay consultant (much like the UK’s Avon representatives), and babysitting, all while raising her own young children.
She estimates she earned less than $15,000, but says it was ‘never about the money’.
Jason Wesche and his toddler daughter Hannah moved in next door to Lindsay and her long-term partner Timothy J. Smith in June 2017.
He had suddenly become a single father after his wife Adrian Latham was imprisoned for trafficking and using heroin. Hannah was born addicted to the drug and remained so for most of her life.
When she met Wesche for the first time, Lindsay recalls how his clothes were dirty and Hannah’s outfits would look crumpled. Her face would often be stained with food like spaghetti sauce or Kool-aid, she says, adding that she could tell the family was ‘struggling’.
‘He was emotionless, cold and very defensive as he saw me look at Hannah,’ remembers Lindsay. ‘I did my best to put them at ease.’
After learning Wesche was looking for a job, Smith offered him one in his construction company, saying that his wife could look after Hannah while he worked.
The arrangement frustrated Lindsay at first, but by the time the little girl came to stay at hers, she was at peace with the decision and even posted a picture of her on her Instagram with the caption, ‘Welcome sweet Hannah.’
‘It was easy to love her and take care of her,’ recalls Lindsay. ‘I wanted to give her stability, a place to come to and grow.’
With four toddlers under her charge, life was hectic, but it worked because the children could ‘buddy up’ while playing or going out on adventures.
‘I loved Hannah very much,’ Lindsay is at pains to point out. ‘She was mine, just like my two girls are. There was never a moment that she wasn’t part of the family.’
For eight months she watched the little girl. Monday to Friday, usually – unless Wesche had a day or two off that week – and mostly for eight hours a day, sometimes 12. She was paid $35 a day, although, she adds, Wesche was often behind on his payments.
Looking back, Lindsay claims there were warning signs that something was wrong with the toddler’s health. She recalls drawing Wesche’s attention to the fact that his daughter seemed to have a headache every day, sometimes so severe she had to take a nap.
Wesche told her Hannah had allergies and that when it happened she had permission to give his daughter children’s Tylenol.
In the five days before her death, there were several occasions when the child wasn’t herself, says Lindsay. One day Hannah had a headache so severe that she didn’t want to participate in a Mommy and Me dance class, another she fell face first on the gravel driveway leading to Lindsay’s garage. Then she stood on a toy train and once again fell hard.
Lindsay says she suspected she might have a concussion so asked Jason to take her to see a doctor, which he assured her he would. [When asked about it by Metro.co.uk, Wesche says Lindsay is ‘lying, as usual’.]
On that fateful March day, just after her father dropped her off, Hannah came into the house, and according to Lindsay, said two words: ‘Doughnut’ and ‘Couch’. Then she fell forward and hit her head.
She had been there for one minute and twenty-seven seconds.
Feeling panicked, Lindsay lay the unconscious child on the garage’s couch.
‘I was scared, confused;’ she recalls. ‘I didn’t know what was happening. I thought it was just a fall and she would be fine.’
Lindsay phoned Wesche and then the police.
In her call to the authorities, a panicked Lindsay can be heard saying: ‘Something is wrong. I don’t know what is wrong. Hurry please.’
Paramedics were immediately sent to Lindsay’s home and Hannah was taken to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
From the off, police were confident that it was either Lindsay or Wesche who had harmed Hannah and both were questioned within hours of that first call. Wesche, at the hospital, Lindsay at the police station.
When Lindsay was interrogated, she agreed to speak to them without an attorney twice.
After an hour and a half, she was allowed to go home and the mum-of-two thought that was the end of matters, so went to the hospital where she was denied access to Hannah’s ward.
Wesche said his daughter had suffered an aneurysm but would be fine. However, Lindsay was arrested at home at 9am the following day.
As news of the arrest travelled to the hospital where Hannah lay in a coma after several surgeries, her family’s civility towards their neighbour quickly turned to rage.
Dave Latham, Hannah’s maternal grandfather, sat at the little girl’s bedside, hoping for a miracle.
‘The doctor said that it was like she was dropped from a two-storey house on concrete on her head,’ he tells Metro.co.uk. ‘It was a massive blow to the head. A severe injury.’
At the police station, Lindsay claims she was coerced into giving a confession.
‘They promised me that they would not separate me from my babies but they were ripped from my arms and taken into another room,’ she recalls.
In the interrogation room, Lindsay says detectives gave her different scenarios of ‘what could have happened’.
When they suggest she uppercut Hannah, poked her in her chest and shook the little girl because she was crying when her father left her, Lindsay agreed. When they said that Hannah hadn’t fallen alone, but it was actually when she was carrying her, the mum-of-two agreed once again.
According to Lindsay, it was impossible to truly focus on what they were saying as her daughter was in hysterics. She felt it would just be easier to ‘go along with it’.
‘Because I thought they wanted those answers,’ she adds tearfully. ‘I feel like I never willingly answered them but just went with what their ideas were. I wanted the whole situation to go away.’
But the situation didn’t go away. When Hannah died 10 days after her fall, Lindsay was charged with murder, involuntary manslaughter, and four counts of child endangerment.
As her trial began on April 2, 2019, a jury heard how Lindsay had admitted to the crime, while Hannah’s grandfather Latham told them that although estranged from his daughter Adrian, he would spend every Sunday with Hannah. On one occasion, he said, the little girl told him that the babysitter had hurt him.
‘My granddaughter had bruises on her chest and when I asked her what happened, she said “babysitter”,’ Latham recalls, referring to his court testimony. ‘And later she (Lindsay) confessed to the police that she had poked her in the chest.’
Meanwhile, Lindsay’s defence team painted Hannah’s father Wesche as the one who should be in the stand. They said he was a liar who had failed to disclose that he’d had a friend staying with him at the time, someone who should also have been considered a suspect, if the police had been aware of his presence.
Her lawyers also showed photographs of Wesche’s untidy and dirty apartment, where Hannah slept on a mattress. Every surface of the room was covered with clothes, toys and uneaten food.
Recalling the trial, Lindsay says: ‘I was sick to my stomach every day going to court. I hated the impact it was having on everyone involved, especially my girls and parents.’
At the time, she was out on bond and living with her parents: Ken, 67, a former small business owner and Stacy, 63, a school worker. She would head to court every day dressed very simply, in trousers and a shirt, with her hair brushed neatly to frame her face.
‘The cameras were unnerving but I tried to ignore them,’ she says. ‘I felt like I was being judged every second. I remember fidgeting a lot in my chair and trying to focus on writing notes and just listening. It was gut-wrenching.’
Although her family supported Lindsay, TJ refused to testify for her. By then, their relationship was over – they haven’t spoken since, and he’s also pled guilty to a lesser charge of assault in a separate case, after being charged with the rape of a 10-year-old girl.
Seven days after the trial began and after 12 hours of deliberation, the jury found Lindsay guilty on all charges.
‘I was in shock,’ she admits. ‘I never thought I would be convicted. Inside I was crumbling but I could hardly breathe or move. I remember looking back at my parents. My mom blew me a kiss and my dad raised his hand like, “I got you, I will fix it”.’
Now, as she sits in jail, Lindsay remains steadfast in her innocence.
‘I didn’t hurt Hannah ever. That’s not who I am,’ she says. ‘I don’t deserve this.’
When asked who does in her opinion, she points the finger at Wesche, who has taken and passed several polygraph tests in a bid to prove his innocence.
When asked why she thinks she lost the trial, Lindsay believes it was down to the little girl’s ‘excrutiating’ autopsy photographs. She believes that the fact that when the jury saw them, they had to hold someone accountable – and as she was in the stand, she must be the one to blame.
‘Every eye was riveted to the 70’ inch television where the photos were displayed. It was devastating for me to look at them; this is a little girl I love tremendously…’ she tails off.
Many who knew Lindsay refuse to believe that she hurt Hannah and are convinced that there must be a medical reason for the child’s death.
‘I would want it to be known that Lindsay is a caretaker, everything about her is kind, sweet and full of love and in no way is she capable of abuse of a child or anyone else,’ says Lindsay’s cousin, Karin Partin Wells, who began the Facebook page, Lindsay Partin Is Innocent, as soon as the trial was over.
Since then Karin, a scriptwriter, has headed up two appeals – at local and state level – both of which have failed. To date, Lindsay’s family have spent more than $75,000 on attorney fees – all the money they had.
Meanwhile, the case has become the focus of many armchair detectives and true crime bloggers, all desperate to try and fathom the case and prove her innocence – or guilt – once and for all.
One, Lana Oriana, who runs YouTube channel Truth & Transparency, recently shared a picture of Hannah that she had discovered on Facebook, which she believes could shed new light on the case.
In the photo, which was taken on the little girl’s first birthday, a bright-eyed, bare-chested Hannah sits in her high chair, her face smeared with pudding. On her collarbone are two visible dark brown bruises. It was taken before Lindsay had even become part of her life.
Lindsay and her family had also come across the photo and are hopeful it will be the key to her release, as they plan to use it as part of a new appeal.
Unsurprisingly, Wesche and Latham’s family vow to prevent Lindsay from ever leaving prison.
‘It was a slam dunk case and there is no doubt,’ says Latham angrily. ‘The babysitter slammed her on the concrete floor in the garage. And she flat out said what happened to the police.
‘I will never forgive her. I am an eye for an eye kind of guy. I might not get revenge in this world but I will in the next. And I will go to the depths of hell for that.’
Wesche tells Metro.co.uk that life without Hannah ‘never gets easier.’
‘I trusted Lindsay with my child and she killed her,’ he says. ‘The grief never goes away and I cope day by day.
‘Yes my house isn’t clean and I didn’t have milk – but what does that have to do with anything?
‘She admitted it to the police. She needs to be in prison – she’s exactly where she should be. I hope she spends the rest of her life there and never comes out.’
Lindsay hasn’t seen her children since the day of the second interrogation.
‘In the beginning, I thought I would be out on appeal. So my girls have never come to visit. I wish every day I could see them and touch them,’ she writes in one email to Metro.co.uk. ‘I want them to know that Mommy thinks about them every minute of every day and I love them to the moon and back.’
Lindsay copes by looking at the photos of her daughters throughout the years. Every day, while she wonders whether her kids think of her, the rest of her family and friends cannot stop thinking of her.
’We don’t sleep well – we stopped sleeping a long time ago,’ says Lindsay’s father, Ken. ‘Sometimes, we wake up at night and say, “what are we going to do?”
‘We want justice for her. Our daughter is not raised to be sitting where she’s at,’ he adds.
Lindsay’s friends, Andrea Corey and Stephanie Maynard Furia, who sat in the front row during the trial, continue to support her and believe in her innocence.
Once a month, they come to visit her and that makes her feel ‘normal and happy’.
‘We want to get her out of prison but where do we get the funds from?,’ says Andrea, 39, a resident of Ross Township who has known Lindsay since sixth grade. ‘She puts a smile on her face for us but we all know that she is suffering greatly.’
Stephanie, 38, who lives in West Chester, Ohio, has known Lindsay since elementary school.
‘When the unthinkable happened and Lindsay called, I was right by her side and continue to be,’ she explains. ‘Not for one minute did I think she had anything to do with Hannah’s death. Lindsay should not have talked to the police.’
Her parents try everything to make Lindsay’s life easier in prison. They bought her a tablet and put money in her account.
They say they are proud of how ‘strong’ their daughter is, and that she is ‘doing her best daily.’
All the while, Lindsay says she does her best to stay busy.
She has helped three inmates file briefs and win their release. She does laundry, cleans, reads and attends various groups, including music therapy and a parenting class.
Lindsay also helps inmates to earn their high school diplomas and is training to be a peer mentor so that she can help her cellmates through issues.
But, she adds, she can’t stop thinking of going home to her family.
‘I have to get out of here before my mother dies of a broken heart and my girls forget who I am,’ she says.
Lindsay also tells Metro.co.uk she’s mindful that in all this mess, a little girl has lost her life.
She says that when she’s alone in her cell she talks to Hannah – as she does her daughters.
‘I tell her I love her and I loved taking care of her,’ says Lindsay, adding, ‘If I do get out I want to advocate for innocent people.
‘This is a nightmare I would never wish on anyone.’
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