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Doctor says infant was severely abused

March 22, 2000|By MARLO BARNHART

In his first seven weeks of life, Thomas Caleb Smith suffered 17 fractured ribs, broken legs and pelvic bones, nearly a dozen bruises, retinal hemorrhaging in his eyes and brain damage - the result of severe, repeated child abuse, according to court testimony.

A Washington County Circuit jury heard that testimony Tuesday from a University of Maryland pediatric specialist during the first day of the trial of Charles Herbert Smith, the father of the infant.

Smith, 38, formerly of 2 Broadway, is charged with first- and second-degree assault, child abuse and reckless endangerment of his son last June 5.

The child survived the injuries.

"I can say with 100 percent certainty that this child was the victim of severe, repeated child abuse," said Dr. Robert Englander.

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Englander, who first saw the infant June 7, said rib fractures like Thomas' are caused when a baby is squeezed very hard.

"Fractured femurs (thigh bones) occur with rough pulling," Englander said. "And brain injury like Thomas' is shaken baby syndrome or strangulation ... I can't say which or if both," Englander said.

At a bond review last June, Charles Herbert Smith vehemently denied beating, squeezing, shaking and strangling his son.

Hagerstown Police Detective Steve Hoover testified Tuesday about a statement made by the defendant just hours after his child was rushed to Washington County Hospital in respiratory arrest.

"He admitted to me handling Thomas more roughly than he should have," Hoover said.

Hoover said he interviewed the child's mother, Justina Hoover, that day and didn't rule her out initially as a suspect.

She wasn't charged.

Originally, Charles Herbert Smith was charged with first- and second-degree attempted murder in addition to the other charges, but those charges were later dropped.

At the completion of a police investigation, he was taken into custody at a store where he is an assistant manager. He has remained in custody.

The baby was taken to Washington County Hospital on June 5 where medical personnel found bruises on his face, neck and arm.

Attending physician Dr. Thomas Gilbert III testified Tuesday that he agreed with Englander's conclusion that the infant's injuries didn't occur by accident.

Initial examination showed the baby had fractured ribs, some a few weeks old, and newer injuries, testimony revealed.

Physicians told police the fractures and the bruises did not occur at the same time because they were in different stages of healing, police said.

The child also had brain damage, which Englander said occurred within minutes or hours of the force applied to the child that caused him to stop breathing on June 5.

Testimony is expected to resume this morning and could continue into Thursday before Judge Donald Beachley.

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