Charges: Foster parent injured 4-month-old several times

“I thought I was going to kill him,” the man reportedly told a Lake Stevens police detective.

LAKE STEVENS — He was trying to do a favor for his wife.

She hadn’t been sleeping well since both of their foster sons caught pneumonia. On April 12, after returning from the hospital, he said he would sleep with the 4-month-old downstairs at their Lake Stevens house, while she got some rest.

The next morning, around 2:30 a.m., the man woke up his wife. The baby was experiencing seizures and having trouble breathing, he reportedly said. She called 911, and the boy was taken to the hospital.

Their foster son had bleeding in the brain. A doctor said the injury was likely caused by another person, and not by accident, according to a police report.

The foster father, 32, was charged last week in Snohomish County Superior Court with second-degree assault against a child. His bail was increased fivefold, to $250,000, from his initial arrest.

Prosecutors say there’s new evidence suggesting that the man had injured the baby on multiple occasions. Medical tests completed since the arrest show that there was bleeding on both sides of the brain, including blood that appeared older than the most recent incident. Bone fractures found in his legs and ribs were in different stages of healing, and likely weren’t caused by a single event.

Doctors reportedly ruled out that the injuries could have resulted from coughing, falling or childbirth. Shaking appeared to be the most likely cause, both for the types of injuries the baby had, and the seizures that he suffered, charging papers say.

Because babies have weak neck muscles, violent shaking can result in permanent brain damage, or death, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The foster father initially denied shaking the baby in interviews with a Lake Stevens detective. When he got frustrated, he said he would set the boy down and walk away.

Babies “cry so much and so loud and so constant that it really does bother you,” he said, according to charging documents. “It really does work on you. It really does break you down.”

The foster father relayed varying accounts of how the baby was injured, prosecutors say.

First, he said he was trying to feed his foster son milk when the boy suddenly seized up.

Then, he said he tripped and fell on the baby — maybe multiple times.

Another time, he said perhaps he was too rough when he burped the boy. He demonstrated on a doll; each pat was hard enough to shake the doll’s head. The detective called the demonstration “disturbing” in her report.

At the end of one interview, the defendant seemed surprised that he wasn’t being arrested.

The detective said it sounded like an accident.

“Not to me,” the defendant said. “To me, it doesn’t sound like an accident.”

When a detective asked the defendant to take a polygraph test, he hesitantly agreed.

Then he allegedly admitted to injuring the baby.

“I’m not gonna lie to you,” he said, according to court papers. “I thought I was going to kill him. … I thought he was going to die, and I panicked.”

He said he tripped over a bassinet when the boy flew out of his hands and landed headfirst over four feet away, according to charging papers.

The baby was silent, the defendant reportedly said, so he picked him up and then shook him to get a response — and kept shaking as the boy started seizing.

The boy went limp for a moment, then began seizing again.

That’s when the man woke up his wife and got the baby to the hospital.

He reportedly told the detective that he’s never injured his foster son out of anger.

“I was tired,” he said. “I was stressed out.”

He said he shook the baby one other time, when he was about two weeks old and wouldn’t eat, court papers say. He also said he stepped on the boy’s leg.

The man has no other felony history. He has two juvenile misdemeanor convictions, which have been sealed. Prosecutors said they would attempt to unseal the cases, one of which also involves a child.

Zachariah Bryan: 425-339-3431; Twitter: @zachariahtb.

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