Infant in Pasco assault case had fractured skull, doctors say

Kristin M. Kraemer Tri-City HeraldSeptember 25, 2013 

A Pasco father accused of violently shaking his infant son claims he accidentally dropped the boy on the garage floor and only slightly shook him to make sure he wasn't hurt.

Rueben Godino's story reportedly changed several times as doctors in Richland and Spokane discovered the 4-month-old boy had a fractured skull and was bleeding within the brain.

One doctor, who also is described as a child abuse expert, said it was possible that a fall as Godino explained could have caused part of the injury. But as for the brain bleeding, someone had to have shaken the baby "severe enough for all sides of the child's head to strike his own body," the doctor said in court documents.

Godino, 39, pleaded innocent in Franklin County Superior Court to second-degree assault of a child. Trial is set Dec. 4.

Godino is free on his personal recognizance and was given permission to travel to Texas. Though he was living in Pasco during the alleged crime July 5, documents also show an address for a Richland motel.

Pasco police got a call from Child Protective Services on July 8 about a young boy being treated at Sacred Heart Medical Center & Children's Hospital in Spokane.

The CPS referral said the baby's injuries were unexplained, and that Spokane police had taken a report and noted several inconsistencies in the father's story, court documents said. Godino said he'd dropped the boy in the garage July 4 and called his wife because she has medical experience, but the mother told police she never got that call, documents said.

Pasco Detective Sean Granger went to Spokane to interview the parents.

The baby's mother said she came home from work July 5 to find her son "crying inconsolably" in Godino's arms and that Godino was intoxicated. She fed the baby to help calm him down, then held him up and noticed a large, swollen area on the right side of his head.

"She asked Godino what happened, and Godino said he did not know," Granger wrote in his report.

The baby was taken to Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland, where medical staff diagnosed the brain bleed and said it was necessary for him to go to Spokane.

She said Godino never called her about their son falling, and said Godino sent her photos of their baby throughout the day and in none of those did her son have any visible injuries.

The last photo she got was about three hours before she came home.

Godino admitted to being responsible for his son's injuries, but gave several different accounts and "the details of these accounts remained inconsistent throughout the entire interview," Granger said.

Godino initially said the boy toppled over in a chair.

Then, a day later after a doctor told him about the skull fracture and that it had to have been caused by something else, the father said he accidentally dropped his son while getting groceries out of the car on July 4, documents said.

But when investigators questioned him about the date, Godino allegedly changed it to July 5 to match with the timeline of the injuries.

Godino reportedly said nothing else happened to his baby but also repeatedly told the detective, "Whatever happened to him was my fault."

Godino also said he was the only adult around when his son was injured, denied that any of the boy's siblings contributed to it and said he would do a polygraph exam.

On July 9, Dr. Michelle Messer, who is recognized as a child abuse expert, explained to the detective that the fracture to the right side of the baby's skull could have been caused by a fall, but the bleeding was from a violent shaking, court documents said. She described it as blunt force trauma, and said the child suffered "an abusive injury," documents said.

When Messer described the injuries to the family with a CPS worker present, Godino allegedly said he'd shaken his son "slightly after his fall to ensure he was not injured."

Godino was set to take the polygraph July 24, but on July 22 the detective was told Godino would not be taking the test.

-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; kkraemer@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @KristinMKraemer

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