Published: Sunday, March 18, 2007
Police say father hit infant to make him tough; baby in coma
The baby had bruises and pinch marks all over his body, plus a bite mark.
BELLEFONTAINE, Ohio (AP) The father of a baby in an irreversible deep coma told investigators he regularly backhanded and pinched the boy to make him tough, a police officer said.
Michael Robinson and Sue Hutchins are facing trial on abuse allegations, in the third child welfare investigation involving the couple in just over two years.
Dana Robinson, who turns 1 on Tuesday, is expected to be discharged from Columbus Children's Hospital this week and will go either to a nursing home or a foster home with round-the-clock nursing care. He could live up to 20 years on a feeding tube with no awareness of his existence, Logan County child welfare authorities said.
"It is hard to believe the extent of damage to this infant," John Holtkamp, executive director of Logan County Children's Services, said Friday. "If you or I were in that condition, we would probably not wish to continue to exist."
Robinson, 43, and Hutchins, 35, were jailed in Logan County after Dana was injured in a 2005 child endangering case involving Hutchins' daughter by another man. Robinson is serving a sentence that had initially been suspended and Hutchins is jailed on a probation violation.
Once they finish those terms, bond in the case involving Dana is set at $250,000 for the father and $50,000 for the mother. Robinson is charged with felonious assault, child endangering and domestic violence. Hutchins is charged with permitting child abuse. Pleas have not yet been entered.
7 children taken
In all, seven children have been placed with relatives or in foster care: Robinson's three sons, ages 12, 10 and 8, are with an uncle; Hutchins' two daughters by another man, ages 11 and 9, are with their paternal grandparents, who are seeking permanent custody; and Children's Services is seeking to revoke custody of Dana Robinson and the couple's 2-year-old son, Draven, and place them for adoption.
At a Feb. 27 court hearing, the day after he called 911 to say Dana Robinson wasn't breathing, his father asked for reconciliation.
"When can I see my kids again?" he told the judge. "I love my kids. I never said I was the best father. Maybe I can get better with time."
A week later, Officer Blake Kenner testified that Robinson told him he hit and pinched the boy to make him tough. The officer saw several bruises on the baby, on the top of his head, forehead, near his nose and on his chest and legs, plus a bite mark on his lower leg and apparent pinch marks on his neck and the soles of his feet.
At a hearing for Hutchins, Detective Scott Sebring testified that Hutchins said she knew her boyfriend was pinching the baby and told him he was playing too rough.
Her attorney, Edwin Dougherty, said Saturday that Hutchins was not at Robinson's home the day Dana was hospitalized, and she denies ever seeing him do anything worse than pinching and rough play.
"None of those items are life threatening or would cause serious physical harm," Dougherty said. "She told him to stop it."
Robinson's attorney, Marc Triplett, is out of the state. A message was left Saturday at his office, and messages were left at several listings for Robinsons in Bellefontaine, about 50 miles northwest of Columbus, and nearby Quincy and De Graff, where he has family.
In the 2005 child endangering convictions against the couple, Robinson's three oldest sons told investigators that Robinson told them to hurt the younger of the two girls to toughen her up.
Last December, Children's Services closed a two-year investigation into the couple's care for Draven Robinson, whose thigh bone was broken in three places when he was 1 month old. The spiral fracture is associated with rapid twisting of great force, but the injury alone does not prove abuse, Holtkamp said.
Hutchins followed a court order to no longer live with Robinson and completed counseling programs while she was pregnant with Dana. Draven Robinson was returned to her last May.
"A lot of her life is a struggle," Dougherty said. "She is doing the best she can to care for these children."
Three weeks before Dana was hospitalized, someone called Children's Services to complain that the couple were seen together and the children were dirty. The court order covered only living together, not going out in public, and cleanliness is not grounds for an abuse investigation, Holtkamp said.
A flood of people have offered to adopt or foster the two younger boys, and people are volunteering to take shifts holding and stroking Dana, who has a mop of reddish blond hair and deep blue eyes, Holtkamp said.
The boy's broken rib and many bruises are healing, but the worst damage is not visible, he said. He has only reflexes that don't mean he's aware, such as yawning a lot or grabbing a finger pressed to his palm.
"He looks like he's just waking up from a nap when you hold him," Holtkamp said.
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