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Man convicted of assaulting son

December 11, 2003|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A former prison guard faces at least five years in prison after he was convicted Wednesday in Franklin County Court of assaulting his infant son last year.

The jury of 10 men and two women deliberated three hours before finding Peter Stotelmyer, 32, formerly of 280 Mount Union Road, Fayetteville, Pa., guilty of first-degree aggravated assault. The jury found him not guilty of endangering the welfare of a child, a third-degree felony.

Stotelmyer was charged with assaulting his son, then 5 months old, on Nov. 12, 2002, according to Pennsylvania State Police. The affidavit of probable cause stated Stotelmyer was watching his son while his wife, Anni, was at work.

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According to the affidavit, the child was crying and refusing to eat and Stotelmyer "began to shake (the boy) violently up and down off his knee." Stotelmyer told police his son went limp and he performed CPR to revive him, according to the affidavit.

The boy was taken to Chambersburg Hospital and then Hershey (Pa.) Medical Center, according to trial testimony.

Anni Stotelmyer testified for the prosecution Tuesday her estranged husband told her their son fell off the couch. She testified he later told her "he became upset with him because he wouldn't take the bottle and he shook him."

"He's walking. He's talking a little bit," she said of her son. "He's happy and healthy. We don't know about the future."

A CAT scan revealed "subdural blood" on the infant's brain and retinal hemorrhages, Dr. Mark Dias, a pediatric neurosurgeon at Hershey, testified Tuesday. A subsequent MRI scan showed "some blood that looked older," Dias said, indicating the possibility of an earlier head injury.

"The injuries that we saw were totally inconsistent with the story" of the boy falling off a couch, Dias testified. He described the injuries as consistent with Shaken Baby Syndrome.

Dias described the injuries as "potentially life-threatening," although the boy returned home after a few days. About a third of children diagnosed with Shaken Baby Syndrome die, another third have "significant neurological problems" and the remainder make full recoveries, he testified.

The affidavit stated Stotelmyer told police the boy may have been hurt a few weeks earlier than the Nov. 12 incident when he tossed the child on a bed and he struck his head on the footboard.

On cross examination by defense attorney Chris Sheffield, Dias later testified the older blood seen in the MRI was not positive proof of earlier injuries.

Evidence used in the trial included a taped statement Stotelmyer made to police in which he admitted shaking his son and forcefully bouncing him on his knee, according to Assistant District Attorney Angela Krom.

Trooper Mark Grove said Stotelmyer worked as a corrections officer at the Maryland Correctional Training Center in Hagerstown when the incident occurred. He said Stotelmyer now lives in the Hagerstown area, but he did not have his current address.

Pennsylvania law mandates at least five years in prison for someone convicted of aggravated assault on a child under the age of 13, Krom said. The conviction carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.

Judge Richard H. Walsh scheduled Stotelmyer's sentencing for Feb. 11.

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