Thursday, March 25, 2010

Dad on trial for torture abuse of toddler son (Somerset County, Pennysylvania)

Dad JASON RAY FLICK isn't one of those guys who "snapped" while babysitting. What this father "allegedly" inflicted on this child was nothing short of systematic torture. Note that many friends and family members were aware--at least on some level--of what was going on, and ALL of them were terrified to intervene, not just the mother.

Toddler abuse case begins

Wednesday, March 24, 2010 10:51 PM EDT

Jason Ray Flick sat quietly at the defense table Wednesday in Somerset County court on the first day of his trial on charges that he repeatedly abused his toddler son more than two years ago.

A tattoo of his son’s name on the side of his neck served as a reminder of the boy who prosecutors say was brutalized by his father, resulting in a helicopter ride from the Somerset Hospital emergency room to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on Sept. 30, 2007.

At Children’s Hospital the toddler was diagnosed and treated for a broken left thigh bone, skull fracture and liver and pancreas damage, according to testimony from Dr. Monique Higginbotham, an expert medical witness for the prosecution, pediatrician and part of the child advocacy division at Children’s that treated the boy. She said the boy also had bruises on his chest that were indicative of being punched. Taken together, her findings were consistent with child abuse, she said.

Flick, 29, Village Way, Somerset, is charged with one count of aggravated assault, 13 counts of endangering the welfare of children, eight counts of simple assault, a count of furnishing alcohol to a minor and 11 counts of recklessly endangering another person. He has been incarcerated in Somerset County Jail since Dec. 14, 2007.

The abuse began prior to the boy’s second birthday, sometime in December 2006, and continued for nearly nine months until he was rushed to the hospital by his parents, Assistant District Attorney Carolann Young told the jury of six men and seven women in her opening statement Wednesday. One of the jurors is an alternate.

He beat him, he kicked him, he shot him with pellets from his air gun,” she said.

Young testified about how Flick forced his son’s mouth open and poured hot sauce down his throat, how he wrapped a live snake around the toddler’s neck and how he drew with a permanent marker phallic symbols and derogatory terms on the boy’s face and body.

She said Flick performed these acts for several months in front of neighbors, family members and friends, several who will testify during the trial.

In his opening statement, defense attorney Edward Terry Iseman of Somerset questioned why those witnesses did not report the alleged abuse to authorities over all that time.

“It is strange that they did not call someone for help,” he said.

A family friend and two family members testified that they did not go to authorities because they were intimidated or scared of what Flick might do.

The child’s grandmother, Karen Alesantrino, and maternal aunt, Brooke Spangler, both testified that the toddler displayed fear and anxiety around his father. Both said they did not see Flick hit or hurt his son, but they did observe bruises on the toddler that prompted them to make inquiries about the bruises with his mother. She told them she did not know how the bruises happened, they testified.

Family friend Kala Mardis of Somerset testified that she witnessed abusive behavior by Flick, but did not go to authorities because she was intimidated by him. She said she saw a display of Flick’s anger when he smashed a coffee table and punched holes in the apartment walls.

Mardis said she practically grew up with the boy’s mother, Rogi Spangler, and watched the boy grow up as well.

In December 2006 she stayed with Flick, Spangler and their boy for two weeks. She testified that she saw Flick shoot his son with pellets or synthetic ammunition from an Airsoft gun. When the boy cried, Flick would laugh.

“How many times did you see Mr. Flick use the gun to shoot his son?” Young asked.

“Ten or more times,” she answered.

Flick did the same to her and the boy’s mother, Mardis said.

“It felt like a hard rock whipped at you at a really fast pace,” she said. “It stung, it really hurt. It left little red welts and it bruised.”

She said she told him to stop shooting his son with the pellets, but he would not listen. When the boy’s mother grabbed her son and tried to cover him up, Flick shot her as well.

Mardis said she saw Flick punch his son in the legs and arms to try to make the limbs go numb. Later she saw bruises on his legs and arms, she said.

Mardis said she called Somerset Borough police criminal investigator Ruth Beckner on Oct. 1, 2007, after learning that the toddler had been taken to Pittsburgh with injuries.

Beckner, who filed the charges, testified that she interviewed Mardis and Flick the following day. Flick told her that he was sitting on the living room couch when he heard his son fall down the stairs. He said he saw him lying on the landing. He picked the boy up and carried him to the couch. The boy’s leg appeared to be injured so he propped it up with a pillow and called the boy’s mother, who was at a laundromat. Flick told police he picked up the boy’s mother and they took the boy to the emergency room at Somerset Hospital.

Higginbotham testified Wednesday that the injuries are more typical of abuse cases.

“The whole pattern of injuries is atypical of a fall down the stairs,” she said.

The spiral fracture of the left thigh implies a twisting force was applied, Higginbotham said. She said such a fracture can occur from a fall down stairs, but it is rare and usually occurs when an adult falls with the child and lands on the child’s leg. She said the skull fracture was in an area that is not usually injured in falls. The fracture was in the back of the head and not the side of the head, which is more typical.

The other internal injuries are indicative of being struck or punched with force, she testified. The bruises on the boy’s chest were also consistent with physical contact.

“These bruises are in a cluster, they are close together and round in shape,” she said. “They are indicative of grab marks” from the pads of fingers or knuckles.

The doctor defined the child’s injuries as serious and said they resulted in “constant, severe pain” for the boy. His injuries were debilitating because he had to have a cast on his lower body that immobilized him for weeks while his fracture healed. He could not play like other kids in his age group.

“He hated that cast,” she said. “He just cried.”

The trial is scheduled to continue at 9:30 a.m. today.