NORTH ATTLEBORO — The couple accused in a child abuse case involving a friend’s 1-month-old daughter has lost custody of their own 2-year-old son because of the allegations against them.
Meanwhile, the 2-year-old’s father, Matthew D. Johnson, 22, of 8 Falmouth St. in North Attleboro, was ordered held in jail on $100,000 cash bail this afternoon after he pleaded innocent in Attleboro District Court to assault and battery on a child causing serious bodily injuries.
Johnson’s son was placed in the custody of a relative by the state Department of Children and Families after the incident was reported Aug. 17, according to police and the state agency.
Johnson and his girlfriend, Eden M. Beauregard, 22, of the same address, have been ordered to have no contact with their son, officials said.
Johnson is accused of abusing their friend’s 1-month-old daughter earlier this month, causing a brain injury, bruises and six rib fractures while he and Beauregard were babysitting the child.
A doctor told police the injuries were consistent with shaken baby syndrome, but Johnson told investigators that he tripped over a child’s toy and accidentally dropped the child, according to authorities.
The baby, Braelynn Barbato of Cumberland, is now out of the intensive care unit but was still at Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence today, according to police.
As a condition of his bail, Judge Daniel O’Shea also ordered Johnson to have no contact with the infant at the request of prosecutors.
Johnson and Beauregard also face charges of permitting substantial injuries to a child and reckless endangerment of a child. Beauregard, who is not charged with assaulting the baby, will be summonsed to court at a later date.
She left court without comment chased by a horde of reporters.
Neighbors who did not want to give their names said today they were shocked by the allegations.
One woman, who said she does not believe the charges, said Beauregard and Johnson were a “very nice couple” and that Johnson would help cut lawns in the neighborhood.
“If I was a character witness, I would stand by him 100 percent,” the woman said. “I never saw him hit anybody, not even his own kid.”
On the other hand, one man was angered by the allegations.
“That’s nuts. I hope they hang him,” the man said.
The couple has been under investigation since Aug. 17 when police and firefighters responded to a 911 call at the couple’s home for a medical emergency and then noticed bruises on the baby.
When police and fire officials arrived they smelled the odor of marijuana in the house, but Johnson denied smoking any marijuana, Assistant District Attorney Carla Sauvignon said in court.
When rescue personnel examined the baby, they confronted Johnson about bruises on the child’s legs.
“Mr. Johnson could not explain the bruises,” Sauvignon said.
More extensive injuries were discovered at the hospital and the child was placed on a ventilator at one point, the prosecutor said.
Sauvignon requested $500,000 cash bail, citing the severe injuries to the child and the seriousness of the allegations. She gave photos of the baby taken at the hospital for the judge to review.
But Johnson’s lawyer, Daniel Rich of Norton, said Johnson has only a minor arrest record and would return to court as required. He said prosecutors were asking high bail because of the media attention the case has generated.
He noted Johnson cooperated with police and even turned himself in at the police station when he was told they obtained an arrest warrant for him.
“When this incident happened, he immediately called 911,” Rich said.
Rich requested a lower bail that Johnson could afford. He said Johnson suffered a serious back injury in a car accident and is scheduled for an operation next month.
O’Shea responded that Johnson can appeal his bail in superior court or ask for a reduction later in district court. He is due back in court on Sept. 14.