The father of a 3-month-old infant encountered early last week with significant injuries — including a skull fracture — was arrested Tuesday on an aggravated child abuse charge
, according to recently released records.
Jeffrey Lamar Mitchell
, 33, of the 2300 block of South 29th Street in Fort Pierce, was arrested early Tuesday morning, slightly more than a week after Fort Pierce police went to Lawnwood Regional Medical Center & Heart Institute and encountered the injured infant.
Police last week arrested Michael Warfle
, 21, and the child's 22-year-old mother, Christina Cooper-Rivera, each on an accessory-related charge. Warfle also was arrested on a making a false report to law enforcement charge.
Following Cooper-Rivera's arrest, Sgt. Dennis McWilliams, police spokesman, said, "This has been a challenging case for our detectives mainly because there's been so much going on to cover up this crime."
"The detectives had to wade through the initial stories given by these people to develop a probable cause belief of who committed this awful crime,"
Police on April 11 went to Lawnwood where Cooper-Rivera said she was at work when Warfle contacted her and said the infant fell from a bassinet onto the floor. The child soon was taken to St. Mary's Medical Center in West Palm Beach.
Warfle said he watched the child while Cooper-Rivera was at work, and the infant started crying. He said he began rocking the bassinet and that it flipped over, causing the infant to fall.
Warfle was taken into custody, and told he was under arrest. He then said he didn't watch the infant, saying Cooper-Rivera's boyfriend, who is the child's father, did.
He said he knew the father as "City," and believed he heard someone call him Kevin.
Warfle said he heard a "thud" from Cooper-Rivera's apartment. Warfle said "City" told him the infant fell from the bassinet. "City" asked Warfle to say Warfle was caring for the infant, saying "he could not be involved in this,"
an affidavit states. Warfle said he agreed because "City" was his friend and lent him money in the past.
While police initially were at Lawnwood, Cooper-Rivera asked investigators to speak to the infant's father on the phone, identifying him as "Jeff." "Jeff" said he was about seven hours away and was on his way from Georgia.
Surveillance video from Lawnwood showed Cooper-Rivera being dropped off from a gray vehicle with Warfle as the front-seat passenger. Police couldn't immediately identify the driver.
Interviewed again, Cooper-Rivera said she left her son with Warfle. She told police the driver was a friend of Warfle's and that she didn't know his name. She said Mitchell was in Georgia before the incident.
Investigators again spoke to Warfle. He identified a photo of Mitchell as "City." Told by police of surveillance video from the hospital, Warfle said Mitchell was the driver.
"We believe that Warfle and the mother concocted this story in order to protect Mr. Mitchell,"
McWilliams said Wednesday.