A registered sex offender who allegedly caused his 4-month-old son to suffocate when the baby wouldn't stop crying pleaded not guilty Thursday in King County Superior Court, the Prosecutors Office reported.
David L. Nyhart, 23, of Seattle, was arraigned on one count of first-degree child assault. He was arrested April 23, eight days after he and his 22-year-old wife called 911 to report the baby had stopped breathing, according to charging papers.
The baby, born in December, remains under intensive care at Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center after spending several days on life support. The baby suffered "catastrophic" brain damage, which doctors think may leave him debilitated for life, court documents say.
Nyhart, a Level 3 sex offender, had a $60,000 warrant for his arrest for failing to register with authorities in King County when police began investigating the alleged child abuse last month. He has two prior convictions for failing to register his address after serving prison time for second-degree incest.
On Thursday, he was being held in the King County Jail with bail set at $500,000. He could face up to 10 years imprisonment if convicted, said Dan Donohoe, Prosecutor's Office spokesman.
On April 15, the couple called 911 from their apartment at 925 S.W. Holden Street in West Seattle. His wife said she had just returned home from work. Nyhart had been watching the couple's son and 15-month-old daughter, court documents say.
Nyhart initially said he thought the baby might have accidentally suffocated in a blanket and towel that he had wrapped him in, court documents say.
A week later, an upstairs neighbor called police to relate a conversation between him and the defendant in which Nyhart allegedly confided that he had thrown a blanket over the baby's face to muffle his cries, court documents say.
Initially, Nyhart's wife told police she had checked on the baby after coming home and found him breathing normally. After hearing from the witness, police re-interviewed the wife, who acknowledged that she initially had been dishonest. She told police Nyhart often was aggressive towards the children and had shaken the baby before while yelling at him to stop crying, court documents say.
After Nyhart was booked into jail, he called his wife to ask if "we have our stories straight?" court documents say. The couple married in January 2006, according to their King County marriage license. His wife lists her birthplace as Laos.
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