Thursday, 3 November 2011

SBS: Milo Bodnar trial

Laurie Mason Schroeder:  July 15, 2011

The child abuse trial of Milo Bodnar continued to be a battle of the experts Thursday as doctors on both sides of the case debated how his 3-month-old son was seriously injured last year.
Prosecutors say Bodnar, 46, shook the infant because he wouldn’t stop crying, causing bleeding around the baby’s brain and behind his eyes. Bodnar denies the charges
On the stand Thursday morning was Dr. Cindy Christian, a child abuse expert from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Christian, who headed a team of doctors who examined the little boy after he was rushed to the hospital on May 13, 2010, said she believed the baby’s injuries were caused by shaking.
Christian testified that the little boy, Cole, was having seizures and that tests showed unusual bleeding inside his head.
“These are the injuries we see when a baby is shaken,” she said.
Christian said tests were done to rule out other causes for the baby’s wounds, including blood and metabolic disorders. All came back negative.
Christian said the defense theory that the baby was suffering from an undetected brain injury that occurred at birth didn’t make sense, since his symptoms came on so suddenly.
Cole was delivered by Cesarean section, which was prescheduled due to a prior surgery his mother had undergone. Doctors testified during the trial that there were no complications and no trauma at his birth.
Defense witnesses countered Christian’s findings. Dr. Ronald Escinski, a neurosurgeon who teaches at Georgetown and George Washington universities, said the child’s injuries had been present when he was born but not noticed until the day of the incident.
Using charts and diagrams to illustrate his points, Escinski told the jury that large babies like Cole, who was 10 pounds, 5 ounces at birth, often suffer intracranial bleeding that goes undetected. Just because CHOP doctors found blood around the child’s brain, Escinski said, did not prove he was injured that day.
“The presence of fresh blood does not mean fresh injury,” the doctor said.
Escinski also said he didn’t believe in shaken baby syndrome, citing articles he’d read in medical journals.
“Studies show that human beings cannot shake babies hard enough to cause bleeding inside the head,” he said.
Bodnar was arrested in September, following a lengthy investigation into the incident.
On the day the baby was injured, Bodnar was watching the baby while his girlfriend was out shopping. She testified that the boy was fine when she left the house.
Bodnar allegedly told another doctor that he shook the baby to calm him because he wouldn’t stop crying. To Christian and police, however, he said he didn’t know how the boy was injured.
“In these cases, there is usually mention of the child crying,” Christian told the jury. “I think anyone who has taken care of a crying baby knows it can be frustrating. I’ve seen all kinds of parents and caregivers who get frustrated.”
Cole spent two weeks in the hospital. Doctors considered surgery to relieve the swelling inside his skull, but the bleeding stopped on its own after he’d had anti-seizure medication.
He has apparently recovered from his injuries, although Christian told the jury that there is no way to measure the lasting effects at this time.
Bodnar, a former insurance agent and caterer, was unemployed at the time of the incident. His girlfriend testified that he was being treated for anxiety and a sleep disorder, but that she never saw him act aggressively toward the baby.
Bodnar is free on bail. As a condition of bail he is not permitted to have contact with Cole. After his arrest, he moved from the Lower Makefield home he shared with the baby’s mother to his parents’ Middletown home.
The trial resumes today before county Judge Diane Gibbons. Bodnar is charged with aggravated assault, endangering the welfare of a child, recklessly endangering another person and simple assault. If convicted, he could be sentenced to more than 10 years in prison.

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