Dad RUSS C. VAN VLECK has pleaded innocent to felony manslaughter in the death of his 5-month-old son. Dad was babysitting when the baby developed blood on the brain from a head trauma and subsequent breathing problems. Note that charges were dropped from 2nd-degree murder to manslaughter, though the coroner ruled that the baby's death was a homicide. Also notice that Dad was released WITHOUT BAIL pending his trial.
Contrast this to the Columbus, Ohio mom cited in the one of the posts below who is being held on $1 million bond for failure to protect from the stepfather's abuse.
Man pleads innocent in baby's death
By PATRICK McARDLE STAFF WRITER - Published: March 20, 2010
BENNINGTON – An Arlington man pleaded innocent to a felony charge of manslaughter after police said they believed he had caused the death of his 5-month-old son in October.
Russ C. Van Vleck, 27, appeared in Bennington District Court on Friday with family members and his attorney, William Wright. Van Vleck was released without bail pending his trial.
"It's pretty discouraging for the family. Having to face criminal charges now is an opportunity for us to show that what really happened is … something that was created by nature and circumstances beyond anyone's control," Wright said after Van Vleck's arraignment.
In an affidavit, Vermont State Police Sgt. Robert Patten said Colin R. Van Vleck had been pronounced dead at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington on Oct. 3 just after midnight.
Russ Van Vleck had been caring for his son Oct. 2. The child's mother, Lyndsey Van Vleck, had gone to a birthday party in Manchester because her son, who had been sick earlier in the week, had seemed to be feeling better, she told police.
In a statement to police, Russ Van Vleck said he had laid Colin down on the same couch on which Russ was sitting. About 20 minutes later, Russ Van Vleck estimated, "he discovered that Colin was in trouble."
Russ Van Vleck called emergency responders sometime between about 10 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. because it appeared Colin wasn't breathing, according to the affidavit.
Police said Russ Van Vleck told them he attempted cardiopulmonary resuscitation as instructed by the 911 operator but believed it wasn't helping.
Staff at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center told police that Colin was unresponsive for about 90 minutes after he reached the hospital. Around midnight, medical personnel were able to find a pulse but the likelihood of brain damage was very high and the family chose "to refrain from having Colin's life artificially sustained."
As police investigated Colin's death, they found that he had been sick for several days before his death. He also had a deformity to his head because of complications from his birth and both parents said they had a history of sudden infant death syndrome in their families.
Vermont Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Steven Shapiro, however, found that Colin had been a normal, healthy child and that Colin's cranial deformity did not contribute to his death.
Patten said he had spoken to Shapiro on Oct. 3 after Shapiro performed an autopsy and determined Colin's death was "suspicious."
"Dr. Shapiro would convey that his findings revealed that Colin had blood on his brain, an indicator of trauma to the head. Dr. Shapiro indicated the trauma causing Colin's death was believed to have occurred within a 24-hour period prior to his death with the likelihood greater that the trauma occurred closer to the end of the time frame than the start," Patten said.
Colin's death was ruled a homicide cause by mistreatment by others.
The affidavit gives no indication that Russ Van Vleck had abused Colin in the past or that he had confessed any mistreatment to police. However, Lyndsey Van Vleck told an inquest panel at the Bennington District Court on Jan. 5 that Colin "was doing fine when she left her home" Oct. 2.
On March 12, Shapiro gave police an affidavit that said Colin's injuries would have caused an immediate change in his behavior.
Bennington County State's Attorney Erica Marthage asked Judge David Suntag to place a $25,000 bail on Russ Van Vleck on Friday but Suntag said he couldn't impose bail on a defendant who showed no indications that he was a risk of flight.
Wright argued that Russ Van Vleck had been born and raised in Vermont, graduated from Arlington Memorial High School and worked for his father in the area.
According to Wright, Van Vleck was among the National Guard members who had been scheduled to be deployed last year but Van Vleck's commanding officer had reclassified him because of Colin's death.
In the affidavit, police said they believed Russ Van Vleck should be charged with second-degree murder. Marthage said she had decided to file a manslaughter charge because there was a different level of proof required.
"There isn't adequate information in the affidavit to support (the second-degree murder) charge at this time. There's some more information we need to gather from various people," she said.
According to Marthage, the amount of time between Colin's death and an arrest in the case was because the "nature of the investigation has been somewhat difficult" involving the wait for results from the medical examiner's office and speaking to witnesses about sensitive topics.
If convicted of the charge against him, Russ Van Vleck would face a one-year mandatory minimum sentence and a maximum possible sentence of 15 years in prison.
A conference has been scheduled at 8:30 a.m. April 7 in Van Vleck's case.