Nova Scotia father convicted in assault that ‘crushed’ infant son’s skull

The boy was just three weeks old when he suffered a head injury so severe his skull was “like a crushed egg,” according to one doctor.

His father offered police several possible explanations, all of them accidental.

But in a new ruling, a Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge convicted the father, suggesting he “snapped” because of the stress of the new baby and tension with his father-in-law.

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“It is my determination that (the father) intentionally assaulted his infant son, thus causing the catastrophic injuries,” said Justice James Chipman. “He acted out of emotional upset and inflicted excessive force on his innocent, completely defenceless infant son.”

Chipman convicted the man of aggravated assault, failing to provide the necessities of life, and criminal negligence.

Today, the boy is four-and-a-half, cannot walk and has “significant mental and physical challenges.”

At the time, he lived with his parents in a small unit attached to his maternal grandparents’ mobile home in southwestern Nova Scotia.

The boy’s mother described the accused as an unemotional loner but not violent, and the case against him was entirely circumstantial.

The mother first noticed something was wrong with the boy on Nov. 28, 2011, when she saw his hands twitch repeatedly, and he was “staring off with his eyes.” The boy’s father told her she worried too much, according to evidence cited in Chipman’s ruling.

She took the boy to hospital anyway, and he was airlifted to the IWK Health Centre in Halifax where tests revealed a complex skull fracture, brain swelling and other symptoms that were “highly suspicious for non-accidental trauma,” Chipman said.

One doctor told them the MRI showed the boy’s skull was “like a crushed egg.”

Summary of severe injuries

The boy’s injuries were later summarized in a report by Dr. Alfhild Larson of the IWK’s Child Protection Team: “On November 28, 2011, (the boy,) then 24 days old, was hospitalized with seizures and reduced consciousness, attributed to severe injuries that included bilateral and complex skull fractures, extensive bleeding in multiple layers of the brain, brain damage due to hypoxic ischemic injury, and hemorrhages within the retina of the eyes.”

The judge found the boy’s injuries were inflicted sometime on Nov. 26 or 27, during one of two moments when he was alone with his father.

The man told police of several incidents in which the boy could have been accidentally injured, including a fall from the couch where his mother was feeding him, a drop from a higher height as his dad tried to warm his bottle in the microwave, or another fall when he fell hard on the boy on Nov 27.

At trial, the defence argued the father is not violent, and the injuries were accidental.

But Chipman rejected that, saying the accused lost control and “intentionally applied brutal, extreme force.” The judge noted the boy’s mother said the father did not like living with his in-laws, and he thought his father-in-law was overbearing and drank too much.

Family members also said the pregnancy had been a shock – a doctor had told the father he could not have children because of a bout with cancer – and he was not sleeping well.

“I find that (the father) snapped at the time in question,” said the judge, who delivered his ruling in court July 22. The written judgment was released on Monday.