Friday, March 30, 2012

Toddler Beating Suspect Arrested

EDGEWATER, Florida -- His taste of freedom was brief, eluding authorities for slightly more than seven hours.  A local man wanted for aggravated child abuse is now in custody.  Acting on a tip, Volusia County Sheriff’s deputies stopped a car near Acee Drive and Tatum Boulevard in Edgewater at about 10:30 p.m. Thursday night. 


And sure enough, their suspect, 21-year-old Brian Bouchard, was a passenger in the vehicle. Bouchard is accused of physically abusing a 14-month-old toddler so severely that the child is in the hospital fighting for its life.  Investigators still don’t know for sure how the child was hurt.  But say they’re certain that the massive head injuries couldn’t have occurred from an accidental fall or by dropping the child, as Bouchard claimed in rambling interviews during which he gave various and conflicting stories. 


On Thursday, investigators with the Sheriff’s Office’s Major Case Unit obtained an arrest warrant charging Bouchard with aggravated child abuse. Circuit Court Judge Randell H. Rowe III, who issued the warrant, ordered Bouchard held without bond.


The Sheriff’s Office launched the investigation after being called to a home on North Parkway Street near DeLand early Saturday night.  When deputies arrived, they were told that the child had fallen and hit his head on the ground and was breathing, but unresponsive. Deputies noted severe head trauma along with swelling and bruising to the face of the child, who was initially flown by Sheriff’s Office helicopter to Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach and then later transferred to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando. 


Bouchard, who was caring for the child while his mother was at work, initially told Sheriff’s investigators that the boy had fallen as he was running out of the kitchen towards the home’s outer porch and landed face first onto the concrete floor. Bouchard said he scooped up the child and took him to the bathroom to splash water on his face and then called the boy’s mother when he saw the child’s head was bruised and swollen. Given the extent of the injuries, though, the story didn’t make sense to either investigators or the doctors who were treating the child. 


Investigators said during the initial questioning, Bouchard was emotionless and showed no concern for the boy’s condition.  The child’s mother also told investigators that she thought Bouchard may have hurt the boy and was upset that he didn’t call 911 to get help.  And she said Bouchard was acting freaked out over the phone and was worried that his probation would get revoked for drinking and failing to properly watch the boy.  Bouchard was placed on probation earlier this year after pleading no contest to grand theft and trafficking in stolen property.


Based on a preliminary observation, one of the first doctors to treat the child in the emergency room noted that he was suffering from retinal hemorrhages and multiple skull fractures.  Sheriff’s investigators told Bouchard that they couldn’t understand how a trip and fall could have caused so much damage, and then they showed him pictures of the injuries taken at the hospital and asked him to explain how they occurred. 


Confronted with the photos, Bouchard changed his story and said that earlier in the day, the boy got knocked to the ground after he accidentally hit him in the back with the bedroom door.  Several hours later, he said that while holding the boy with one arm, he toppled out of his grasp and fell head-first onto the floor.  He also claimed he had accidentally rammed his knee into the back of the boy’s head while running about the house.  Even after the child supposedly toppled accidentally out of his grasp and landed on his head, Bouchard said he didn’t tell anyone because he realized it was bad parenting and he was scared.  


Later, he said he noticed that the boy seemed a little out of it and his coordination was off, and that’s when he said the final fall occurred between the kitchen and the porch.  After rinsing off the boy in the bathroom, Bouchard said he finally called the child’s mother -- nearly two hours after the boy had supposedly first fallen out of his grasp and onto his head.


Bouchard and the victim’s mother are a couple and have been living together for approximately three months.  She said that about a week before her son was hospitalized, Bouchard disciplined him by forcefully flicking him in the head with his finger.  She said she corrected Bouchard at the time, telling him not to do that again because she didn’t believe in disciplining her children in a physical manner.


After processing, Bouchard will be transported to the Volusia County Branch Jail in Daytona Beach.