A cause of death far too familiar

They are words that have become far too familiar to us.

Just a little less than year ago, the attorney general’s office sent out a press release that said an autopsy concluded that Brielle Gage’s "cause of death was blunt force trauma and the manner of her death is homicide."

The Nashua girl was 3, the age when children begin to develop real friendships and use familiar adults as anchors while they explore the world.

Brielle’s mother, Katlyn Marin, has pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter connected to the death of the child and is jailed while she awaits trial.

The circumstances of the Gage case raised questions about how effectively the state protects children under its supervision. Marin lost custody of her children in May 2014 while the state Division of Children, Youth and Families investigated abuse allegations involving two of Brielle’s siblings, but a judge returned the children to their home later in the year.

The death of 21-month-old Sadie Willott this past September has prompted similar questions. Emergency personnel were called to her Manchester home on Sept. 5 when she was unresponsive, and Sadie was taken to the hospital, where she died the following day. A medical examiner ruled that the death was a homicide caused "through an application of physical force, causing Sadence to suffer a fatal brain injury."

The child’s mother, 22-year-old Katlin Paquette, has been charged with second-degree murder.

Following Sadie’s death, the attorney general’s office launched an investigation into the agency charged with caring for the state’s children.

"Our preliminary review of Sadie Willott’s death and other homicide and assault cases raised significant concerns about DCYF’s prior contacts with those families," Attorney General Joseph Foster said.

We lost another child this week, the third in less than a year.

Shawn Sylvester, who was just 11 months old, died Sunday, two days after police were called to the rural Grafton County town of Alexandria.

"The cause of the child’s death was blunt impact head trauma," according to a statement from the attorney general’s office. "The manner of his death was homicide."

WMUR reported that a 29-year-old man who resided at the same Alexandria address as the baby was arrested Thursday and charged with 23 counts of possessing child pornography. The AG’s office said the man, Tommy Page, possessed "visual representations of an infant male child engaged in sexually explicit conduct."

It’s not known whether the state had any previous contact with the family, but this much is clear: Our failure to protect our children is positively sickening.