Sep 25, 2008 SANDPOINT - A magistrate dismissed on Wednesday the case against a Bonner County man accused of inflicting life-threatening and lasting injuries on his infant, finding that it was just as probable the mother could have harmed the child.
"One of these two (parents) did this, but from the evidence I cannot tell which one," Judge Justin Julian said during Bobby Daniel Adams' preliminary hearing. "The evidence stands in equilibrium, which means that the state has failed to meet its burden of proof as against Mr. Adams."
Julian dismissed the felony charge against Adams without prejudice, which allows the state to re-file it."And we shall," Prosecutor Phil Robinson said immediately after Julian announced his ruling.
Adams, 25, is accused of wreaking a number of grievous injuries on his son on Aug. 17. The injuries, which included a fractured skull and brain damage, were inflicted when Dominik Caden Adams was barely a month old.
The child's mother, Natasha Marie Ward, testified that she left the baby and its father at about noon on Aug. 17 to meet her father at the Blimpie's sub shop in the Ponderay Wal-Mart. She said Dominik was a bit fussier than normal that morning, but otherwise seemed to be OK
Ward, 20, said she received a distressing call from Adams as she left the store. "He said our son was acting different and unusual, and that I needed to get home as soon as I could," she said.
Ward told the court the child was taken to Immediate Care in Ponderay, but was referred to Bonner General Hospital's emergency room. The child was then bundled into an ambulance bound for Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, but the vehicle was diverted to Kootenai Medical Center in Coeur d'Alene after the child began having seizures. From there, Dominik was flown by helicopter to the children's hospital at Sacred Heart, she said.
The infant's pediatric physician, Dr. Joyce Gilbert, testified that Dominik had a fractured skull, bleeding in and around the brain, and retinal hemorrhaging affecting vision.
Gilbert, who examined the child before and after the incident, told Julian there are areas of Dominik's brain which were damaged and concluded none of the injuries were accidental or self-inflicted
"All of the things that I just mentioned are a direct result from the shaken baby incident on Aug. 17 of 2008," said Gilbert, who did not treat the child on the date in question.
Gilbert further testified that she had examined the baby on Aug. 12, partly because of an anonymous complaint from somebody who allegedly witnessed Ward screaming at the child at Wal-Mart and was concerned there was abuse afoot.
Beth Bradbury, a veteran Idaho State Police detective, interrogated Adams at Sacred Heart for about two and a half hours, but he consistently maintained he did not harm Dominik. During the interview, Adams said Dominik was crying and suddenly became unresponsive, according to Bradbury.
Bradbury testified that Adams told her that he took the child to a kitchen sink and sprayed water on him to try and revive him. The child flailed back and hit its head on a cooking pan before becoming unresponsive again, Bradbury said, recalling Adams' statement.
Adams did not testify on Wednesday.
His defense counsel, Todd Reed, argued there was no doubt the infant was injured, but emphasized the state put up nothing to show Adams was the source of the injuries. "There's no evidence tying him into this injury under these circumstances," said Reed.
Julian said the evidence presented to him suggested either Adams or Ward caused the injuries. There was undisputed testimony that Adams was alone with the child immediately before the child's injuries were discovered, but Julian took particular note of the Wal-Mart incident.
While it might not be unusual for parents to become cross with a recalcitrant child of an older age, Julian said it's "almost unheard of" for a mother to be screaming at an infant enough to arouse alarm from passersby.
"Looking at this situation I think it's at least as probable that, in fact, Natasha perpetrated the injuries on the child and Mr. Adams simply happened to be the having his custody when the injuries manifested themselves," said Julian.
Ward stifled back sobs upon hearing the court's remark
After the hearing, Robinson said no criminal charges are being sought against Ward, in keeping with the state's contention that Adams injured the child while it was in his sole custody. Reed declined comment.