Florida man arraigned on child abuse charges

A 38-year-old Florida man was arraigned in Superior Court Thursday on assault charges stemming from a 2007 incident with his then-18-month-old son in Groton.

According to town police, David C. Diaz of Riverview, Fla., who was stationed at the Naval Submarine Base in Groton in 2007, had inflicted life-threatening injuries on the child by holding his hand over the boy's mouth to stop him from screaming. A doctor from Yale-New Haven Hospital who specializes in child abuse determined the victim had suffered a "serious and long seizure" caused by hypoxia, or lack of oxygen.

Diaz, who is unemployed and separated from his wife, was arrested by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office in Florida as a fugitive from justice and extradited to Connecticut, according to his court file. He was returned to Groton Town Police, who charged him Wednesday with first-degree assault and two counts of risk of injury to a minor. At his arraignment, Judge John J. Nazzaro set his bond at $100,000 and transferred the case to the court where major crimes are tried.

According to the arrest warrant affidavit, which police obtained in 2009, hospital staff became suspicious when Diaz and his wife brought the child, who suffered from cerebral palsy, to the hospital in the midst of a prolonged seizure on June 1, 2007. Diaz said the toddler had been put in "time out" for having a tantrum when his legs started jerking and he went into a seizure. He told the medical staff the child had a history of "breath holding."

The medical staff said the parents gave no explanation for the petechia, or pinpoint-sized red dots that the child had, which indicated he was bleeding under the skin of his forehead, according to the warrant. The state Department of Children and Families investigated and determined that an abuse charge was not substantiated, but the agency notified police about 1½ months later when a social worker conducting a home visit noticed bruises on the child's forehead, the warrant said.

A Navy doctor who examined the child said that it is atypical for a child that age to intentionally hold his breath and that if he did, he would lose consciousness rather than have a seizure. Interviewed by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Diaz admitted he had anger management issues and would put his hand over the child's mouth to stop him from crying and screaming.

k.florin@theday.com

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