Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Dad convicted of assaulting 7-week-old son (Montgomery County, Pennsylvania)

Dad is identified as STEVE EDWARD THOMPSON.

Limerick father convicted of shaking, injuring infant son
By Carl Hessler Jr., The Mercury Posted: 04/28/15, 4:46 PM EDT

 A Limerick father seriously injured his 7-week-old son when he acted recklessly by shaking the infant, a judge has determined.

“I think basically dad lost it and took his frustrations out, when the baby wouldn’t calm down, on the baby,” Montgomery County Judge Wendy Demchick-Alloy said Tuesday as she convicted Steve Edward Thompson of charges of aggravated and simple assault, recklessly endangering another person and endangering the welfare of a child in connection with the May 2014 incident at his home.

“I do think the injuries were caused by violent shaking…and it wasn’t just a one and done,” Demchick-Alloy added. “How long he shook him, I don’t know. But enough to cause the injuries to which the doctors inferred, significant. I do believe there was physical impairment to this baby.”

Thompson, 44, of the 200 block of Troon Court, showed no emotion as the judge rendered her verdict after a two-day, non-jury trial. The judge deferred sentencing so that Thompson can undergo drug, alcohol and mental health evaluations.

Thompson, supported in court by his wife and several relatives, faces a possible maximum sentence of 16 to 32 years in prison.

By convicting Thompson of the aggravated assault charge, the judge found that Thompson attempted to cause or recklessly caused serious bodily injury to the 2-month-old child under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life.

The aggravated assault charge can include intentional or reckless conduct.

The child suffered a subdural bleed to the brain, retinal hemorrhages and ligament injuries to his neck, according to testimony. The infant had to wear a neck brace for several weeks after the incident.

“This was a violent shaking of a 7-week-old baby who is completely helpless and reliable on his parents for everything,” argued Assistant District Attorney Laura Adshead, who sought the aggravated assault conviction and alleged Thompson’s conduct was intentional. “The baby didn’t go limp and stop breathing normally until after the defendant shook him.”

Defense lawyer Steven Marino suggested members of the Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect Team at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia were predisposed to conclude that the child’s injuries were the result of child abuse and that the opinion was “not consistent with the medical evidence.”

Marino further maintained doctors did not investigate alternate sources for the infant’s injuries including cardio pulmonary resuscitation performed on the child or the “traumatic birth that took place” weeks earlier.

“The doctor blames the injury on my client. It’s a huge leap and it causes pause. It causes doubt,” Marino argued. “There is no evidence of prolonged shaking. The evidence doesn’t support an intentional finding.”

The judge, who reviewed “voluminous” medical records, “respectfully disagreed” with Marino, explaining reports indicate doctors did consider the CPR and traumatic birth of the child in reaching an opinion and determined they were not factors in the child’s injuries.

“I do not believe the medical personnel performed in any manner that was less than professional. It was a stellar handling of the situation,” said Demchick-Alloy, adding doctors “methodically” reviewed medical evidence to reach their conclusion that Thompson’s conduct caused the injuries.

An investigation of Thompson began about 7:25 p.m. May 29, when Limerick police and an ambulance crew were dispatched to the Troon Court home for a report of an infant not breathing, according to the affidavit of probable cause.

“On arrival, officers found the baby in the care of his father,” Limerick Detective Ernie Morris wrote in the criminal complaint.

Originally taken to Pottstown Memorial Medical Center, the baby was eventually transported to The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where he was admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit, according to court papers.

The following day, a caseworker with the Montgomery County Office of Children and Youth Services and Limerick detectives went to the hospital and spoke with those on the hospital’s Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect Team.

“At that time, we were informed that the baby had suffered at least one subdural bleed to the brain,” Morris alleged.

During an interview by the caseworker and police, Thompson allegedly confirmed that he was alone with the child during the time the injury occurred.

Thompson allegedly claimed he “was carrying (the victim) in one arm” and that the victim “got fidgety and jerked his head” and “fell from his arms onto a very soft, plush couch,” according to the arrest affidavit. The victim, Thompson claimed, “went limp and stopped breathing,” according to the criminal complaint.

An ophthalmologist reportedly told police that the baby suffered “bilateral intra-retinal hemorrhages that were too numerous to count” and that it was a “new injury.”

The hospital’s forensic team “listed the injury as ‘consistent with abusive head trauma (shaken baby syndrome)’ from (the victim) being shaken violently to the point of near death,” according to the arrest affidavit.

Thompson also allegedly told a nurse during the baby’s care that he “shook the baby a bit.”

After interviewing Thompson a second time, detectives said he told them he shook the baby but “I don’t remember how many times or how hard,” claiming he did it to “get a response to wake him up” after the baby went limp after the initial drop, according to the arrest affidavit.

Medical personnel told police that going limp was not consistent with an injury sustained from the fall Thompson described.

A doctor allegedly found ligament injuries in the baby’s neck as well as “an old brain bleed injury,” which he indicated were “highly concerning for repeated abuse.” That doctor classified the injuries as being “consistent” with the victim being “violently shaken,” according to detectives.

In another interview June 3 by a Limerick detective and a caseworker, Thompson allegedly admitted, “I think I shook (the victim) harder than I should have,” according to the arrest affidavit. In another interview Thompson allegedly described “vigorously shaking” the baby because “he was upset with himself for dropping” him.

“He admitted to ‘taking out his frustrations’ on (the victim) because he was mad at himself,” Morris alleged in the arrest affidavit.

“Thompson admitted that (the victim) ‘went limp’ after he shook him. He admitted that he noticed (the victim’s) head being ‘tossed back and forth’ as he was shaking him.” Thompson also allegedly told police that he had been depressed since the birth of the child and that “he and his wife did everything together prior to (the victim) being born.”