The father of a 7-month-old boy was charged Friday with first-degree reckless injury after he admitted to police that he threw the boy against a wall earlier this week after the boy wouldn’t stop crying, refused a bottle and was “more attached to his mom than me,” according to a criminal complaint.
James E. Johnson, 19, told police initially that he had accidentally dropped the boy onto the floor while trying to feed him, causing the boy to lose consciousness. But confronted with marks on two walls in the bedroom of Johnson’s apartment, one of them with hair embedded in it, Johnson admitted that he had tossed the boy onto a bed, causing him to hit the wall, according to the complaint, filed in Dane County Circuit Court.
The complaint also states that the boy had a bite mark on his cheek, which Johnson explained was an accident that happened when he accidentally sunk his teeth into the boy while hugging him.
Johnson, appearing in court Friday dressed in a green suicide prevention smock with his hands cuffed in front of his body, was jailed on $50,000 bail. Court Commissioner Jason Hanson said that after reading the complaint, it appears Johnson “basically beat the hell out of a baby resulting in skull fractures.”
Assistant District Attorney Jessica Miller said the boy is currently in “guarded condition” and that his prognosis wasn’t known at this point.
Johnson will be back in court for a preliminary hearing on April 12.
According to the complaint:
Police went to the apartment in the 1700 block of Northport Drive about 2:55 a.m. on Wednesday after a call about an infant who was injured. Police noticed that the boy was breathing noisily and with difficulty and had bruises on his face and swelling on the left side of his head. He was unresponsive.
The boy’s mother told police that she had gone to work that night and left the boy with Johnson, who is her boyfriend and the father of the boy. She said Johnson called her home about 2:45 a.m. because there was something wrong with the boy.
She said when she got home she noticed the bruises and that something on the back of the boy’s head didn’t feel right, as though there was a gap in one place and another place that was pushed out.
Doctors at UW Hospital found that the boy had two skull fractures, bleeding on the brain, head swelling, facial bruising, eye bruising and a large bite mark on his cheek. He was in a coma and was not responsive. Doctors later also found a liver laceration. The injuries, doctors said, appeared non-accidental.
Speaking with police, Johnson initially said that he had accidentally dropped the boy sometime after 11:30 p.m., and had accidentally bitten him while hugging him. He said he tried for an hour to wake the boy before calling the boy’s mother.
Told that the boy’s injuries did not match the evidence, including a mark on the wall, Johnson said nothing for a time, heavily exhaled and shook his head. When told then that the boy’s hair was embedded in the mark, Johnson said he woke up when the boy was crying but he wouldn’t take a pacifier. He said he tried to give the boy a bottle but he accidentally threw it at the boy’s mouth.
“I was just throwing stuff around left and right and stuff and he got mad and I tried to calm him down and he ended up hitting the wall,” Johnson told Detective Lisa Wing. “I tossed him on the bed and he hit the wall.”
He declined to describe how the boy ended up hitting the wall and said he didn’t know what part of the boy hit the wall because he wasn’t watching.
Told about the extent of the boy’s injuries, Johnson became upset. Asked by Wing, “Did you just lose it?” Johnson nodded his head and said, “It’s over.”
Asked why he lost his temper so badly, Johnson said, “He’s more attached to his mom than he is to me.”
Johnson also admitted to hitting the boy in the abdomen more than once with his fists and said he probably hit the boy in the mouth and head with his fist as well.