CHILD ABUSE DEATH
Coroner deputies responded to a call from a local hospital after a four month old infant was taken to the emergency room by paramedics following a 911 call. According to the person on the phone line, he was the boyfriend of the child's mother who was watching the child while the mother was at work. He stated that he had found the four month old in the crib not breathing. The ER doctor became suspicious of the story because of several unexplained bruises of varying ages, two bruised ears, and a bald spot on the scalp suggesting hair pulling. The doctor contacted police and the coroner's office.
Police detectives interviewed both the mother and the boyfriend and then went to inspect the home. The mother was called at work by the boyfriend stating that he had found the baby in the crib not breathing. The boyfriend reiterated his story to the police and initially denied any possible injury to the child. Upon further questioning, he did recall that the child had rolled off the couch onto the carpeted floor earlier in the day. The boyfriend was unemployed, not the natural father of the child, and had been living with the mother for about six weeks. He watched the child while the mother worked two jobs. There were no other children in the home and Child Protection revealed no prior contact.
Prior to removing the child from the hospital, the Coroner Deputy took the body to radiology and they performed a full body x-ray scan. The body was then transported to the coroner's office for autopsy.
Autopsy findings revealed: An externally visible right temporal parietal scalp bruise with underlying linear fracture and small right subdural hematoma - recent and older ear and facial bruises with subgaleal hematoma underlying the bald spot in the left occipital scalp - small circular older brown bruises on both upper arms suggesting "grab" marks - one inch linear abrasion-contusion of the abdomen and buttocks which overlapped body contours, suggesting a flexible strap-like object - healing left tibial fracture was confirmed.
The case was referred to the prosecutors office. During preparation for the trial, it was discovered that the boyfriend had been involved with suspicious incidents involving children on previous occcasions.
The evidence proved that the boyfriend was not telling the truth. Infants do not sustain serious or fatal head injury from minor falls and obviously cannot sustain a fatal head injury in the crib by themselves. The boyfriend's explanation is typical and strongly suggest child abuse when severe head injuries are discovered at autopsy. The most common explanations are "found dead", "rolled from the furniture onto the floor", "dropped" or "fell down the stairs". Ninety-five per cent (95%) of unexplained severe head injuries in infants or young children are from child abuse. An auto crash or fall from a tall building are acceptable explanations and are easily documented. Falls down stairs are really a series of short falls and normally do not cause lethal injury to children.
Acutal documented explanation for fatal head injury in child abuse victims demonstrates that approximately 60% are hit with an open hand or fist, 30% are thrown and the remainder slammed against a firm surface or shaken.
The boyfriend was convicted of the charge of Infant Homicide and was sent to prison.