Thursday, 20 January 2011

SBS: Montana: Christopher R. Lewis

 January 19, 2011
HAMILTON - A Corvallis man pleaded no contest Wednesday to assaulting his 9-week-old son last January.
Christopher R. Lewis, 22, agreed to enter the plea in return for the state dropping a felony charge of assault on a minor at a hearing before Ravalli County District Judge Jeffrey Langton.
Under terms of the plea bargain agreement, Lewis could face up to 20 years in prison, with 10 suspended. The agreement allows both sides to argue their position at a March 9 sentencing hearing.
Lewis was arrested last February after the mother of the baby took her son to the Corvallis Family Medical Center when the infant was unable to keep from vomiting food, court records said.
The baby was taken to a Missoula hospital, where a CAT scan found bleeding in the boy's brain. Physicians there believed the injuries were non-accidental.
When Lewis was confronted about the nature of the child's injury, he immediately left for a nearby casino, where he became intoxicated. When he returned to the hospital, he argued with the physician until he was forcibly removed by the Missoula police.
Lewis provides the majority of the child care for the infant, court records said. He initially maintained that nothing happened to the boy while he was under his care.
A physician found extensive retinal hemorrhage in the 9-week-old.
Dr. Todd Murdoch - an expert on shaken baby syndrome - told investigators that there was no question the child had incurred injuries consistent with that syndrome.
Two days after being admitted to the hospital, the baby had a shunt surgically placed in his head to relieve the pressure from bleeding injuries. At the time, physicians said the shunt may become a permanent fixture and that it was likely the child would be developmentally delayed due to his injuries.
A surgeon also operated on both of the child's eyes, which could also be permanently damaged.
Family members told officers they had seen Lewis spanking his older son when he was only a month old and that he sometimes smothered the boy in his armpit, court records said. Another person told officers she saw Lewis dangle the older boy upside down by his ankle and walk across the room in order to change a diaper.
The boy's mother initially maintained Lewis wasn't capable of those types of behaviors.
She later told investigators that Lewis had fallen on top of the 9-week-old after his ankle gave way and had made her promise not to tell anyone.
Officers found a book entitled "Taking Care of Your Child," with a piece of paper marking the "Emergencies" section.
The boy's mother told investigators that Lewis insisted that they could use information garnered from the book to nurse their youngest child back to health after she complained the baby was dehydrated.
"Noteworthy," court records said, "cost was not a factor as (the couple's) medical bills were paid for them by public welfare."
Investigators found marijuana pipes, bongs and other paraphernalia in the couple's apartment. Neither of the couple was registered on the medical marijuana registry.
Lewis was on probation at the time of his arrest for the assault on the child for a drug related conviction. In the drug case, he was arrested after cocaine was delivered to a Hamilton residence. At the time, he had his son with him.
Lewis is being held at the Ravalli County Detention Center without bond until the sentencing hearing.

Ravalli Republic reporter Perry Backus can be reached at

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