Bensalem sitter charged with assault of 4-month-old; lawyer says she's 'shocked'
By Jo Ciavaglia Staff writer | Posted: Tuesday, August 28, 2012 5:55 am
A mother of three is accused of assaulting a 4-month-old boy she was babysitting, though the woman’s lawyer says her client was “shocked” that the charges were filed against her.
The baby suffered a near fatal head injury consistent with “shaken baby syndrome” in April while in the care of Cindy Berdick, 41, according to court records. A charge of felony aggravated assault, misdemeanor simple assault and endangering the welfare of a child were filed against Berdick last week.
The baby did not suffer permanent brain damage as a result of his injury, police said.
A pediatrician at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where the child was treated, examined the baby and reported that he suffered from new and old subdural hematomas and retinal hemorrhages. Her findings were consistent with an “acceleration/deceleration injury.”
Bensalem police opened an investigation April 13, after learning the baby was at CHOP with a suspicious head injury that allegedly occurred two days earlier. The child’s parents told police that Berdick had been babysitting the child April 11 when he allegedly sustained a head injury causing bleeding in the brain, according to a probable cause affidavit.
When police interviewed Berdick, she reportedly told them the baby had been at her home for about two hours after his mom dropped him off about 7 a.m. About 10 minutes after the mother left her home, Berdick told police, the baby began to “hysterically” cry, according to the affidavit.
Berdick, who formerly worked in a child care center, said in court documents that she tried to console the baby by cradling him and holding him for about 90 minutes. While she was consoling the baby, she said, he became “very fussy, screamed, turned red and his body went rigid,” according to the affidavit. The baby’s eyes also rolled back into his head, she told police.
That’s when Berdick believed the baby was unconscious, records show. She ran to the kitchen and flicked cold water on the boy’s face, tickled under his chin and flicked his cheek in an effort to get a response, the affidavit said. After less than a minute, the baby woke, the affidavit shows Berdick told police.
Rather than call 911 or take the boy to an emergency room, Berdick waited for her neighbor — a nurse — to return home and then asked her to assess the baby, according to court documents.
At her arraignment on the charges Monday before Bensalem District Judge Joseph Falcone, Berdick’s attorney, Eileen Hurley, requested that her client be released on her own recognizance, citing that she has no prior criminal record, no driver’s license or passport.
Falcone agreed, setting her bail at $75,000 unsecured, meaning she does not have to post any money unless she fails to appear in court. He also ordered she have no contact with any children other than her own.
After the arraignment, Hurley said her client is eager to clear her name.
“She was actually shocked, dismayed and devastated at the charges,” she said. “She is anxiously awaiting the opportunity to come to court.”
Others who know Berdick also expressed disbelief over the charges.
Bensalem resident Max Levin says he has known Berdick for more than 20 years and said she would never harm a child.
“There is no one that cares for children more than her,” Levin said. “She lives to care for children. She used to care for my niece when she was 5, here we are seven years after the fact and my niece still runs to her to smother her with hugs and kisses when she sees her.”
John Reavy lives in Perkasie, but said that he has known Berdick since childhood. His family recently vacationed with Berdick, her husband and kids.
“I am totally shocked, I don’t believe it,” Reavy said. “I would not hesitate to leave my children with her for one second.”