State adds manslaughter charge in shaken baby case

Photo courtesy of Margaret Chapman Jovanni Browne died Oct. 26.

Family members of Jovanni Browne, who died Oct. 26 after allegedly being shaken repeatedly by his father, Adam Browne, greeted Browne with cries of "baby killer!" Wednesday in the New London courtroom where major crimes are heard.

The 2½-month-old baby's mother, who wore a T-shirt with Jovanni's picture and the words "RIP Angel," was angry that court officials ordered the bereaved family to be quiet or leave.

"He murdered my son, and you want us to keep quiet?" said Margaret Ann Chapman.

Prosecutor Theresa Anne Ferryman said the state Wednesday morning had added a charge of first-degree manslaughter to the case. She requested that the judge raise Browne's bond from $500,000, which was set following his initial court appearance. Judge Hillary B. Strackbein raised the bond to $1 million, citing the seriousness of the allegations. New London police initially charged Browne with first-degree assault and risk of injury to a child before Jovanni died.

Browne, 24, was watching his son and Chapman's 4-year-old twins on Oct. 25 at their Crystal Avenue apartment in New London when he allegedly shook the baby roughly after Jovanni continued to cry. He called police at 2:06 a.m. The child was not breathing and was limp when first responders arrived about 2:30 a.m. The baby was taken initially to Lawrence + Memorial Hospital before being airlifted to Yale-New Haven Hospital, where he died the next day.

Members of Browne's family who attended his court appearance and Chapman and her relatives got into a shouting match before marshals intervened.

Outside the courthouse, the Chapman supporters said they want "Justice for Jovanni" and plan to organize an event to help make the public aware of the risks of shaken baby syndrome.

"We hope that other families won't have to go through what we went through," said the child's uncle, William Chapman.

The blue ribbons that most of the family members wore carried Jovanni's name and the saying "Be Aware."

Jovanni's older siblings, a twin sister and brother, keep asking their mother, "Where's Jovanni?" according to family members.

Adam Browne had been baby-sitting the children that day while the mother worked at her job at Dunkin' Donuts and visited a friend in the hospital who was delivering a baby, according to a police report. The mother's family members said Browne had recently lost his job at the Fat Cat Grill & Bar in Groton.

The child's great-grandmother, also named Margaret Chapman, said she had baby-sat for the children the night before and was available if the father needed help.

"He could have called me," Chapman said. "I just live five minutes away."

Browne, wearing a green prison jumpsuit and flanked by marshals and correction officers, hung his head and remained silent as he stood before the judge. He is under a suicide watch. Strackbein appointed attorney Kevin C. Barrs from the public defender's office to represent him. Barrs entered a not guilty plea on Browne's behalf and asked that the case be continued to Dec. 6.

The child's family has started a Facebook page, "Justice for Jovanni."

k.florin@theday.com



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