A father of triplets pleaded innocent Thursday to allegations he squeezed each of the babies so hard that he cracked their ribs.
Demetrias M. Williams, 25, of Kennewick, admitted taking his frustration and exhaustion out on the kids after he started working 12-hour days, along with a two-hour round-trip commute, according to court documents.
He told detectives he squeezed the babies too tight when they were fussy and wouldn’t go to sleep, and he did it several times even though he knew it was “too much,” documents show.
Williams is charged in Benton County Superior Court with three counts of third-degree assault of a child with domestic violence. Each charge includes the aggravating circumstance that Williams knew or should have known the young child was particularly vulnerable and incapable of resistance.
The girl and two boys were 4 1/2 months old when doctors discovered the healing fractures on their ribs. They are now 16 months old.
Williams was arrested on the allegations last August, but released from jail while prosecutors waited on more medical and expert reports as part of the investigation. The charges were filed last week.
Williams is out of custody on his personal recognizance. His trial is scheduled Oct. 12.
The children initially were taken into protective custody. Williams now has contact with the children, who may be living in the home again. He has been told to follow all orders and restrictions set by Child Protective Services and by the judge in his dependency court matter.
The triplets were two months premature and weighed about 2 pounds each when they were born March 19, 2014.
The Herald featured the family a month later when Tiffany and Demetrias Williams got married in the pediatric ward at Richland’s Kadlec Regional Medical Center before taking their kids home.
Then on Aug. 3, one of the boys had a persistent cough, and a concerned Tiffany Williams took him to Kadlec to be checked out. That is when a chest X-ray revealed multiple healing rib fractures, court documents show.
Doctors admitted the boy to watch his respiratory status, while also giving them more time to evaluate the fractures. A skeletal survey, which involved X-rays of all the bones in the body, showed there had been several ribs previously broken on each side, as well as possible fractures of both thighbones just above the knee, documents said.
A Richland pediatrician conferred with a Seattle Children’s Hospital radiologist, who concluded the boy did not have low bone mass and that the broken ribs were not caused from birth trauma.
Kennewick police and Child Protective Services were then contacted, and X-rays were done on the other two babies. One had two healing fractures of different ages on his left ribs, and the girl had four healing fractures on her right ribs that occurred about the same time, court documents said.
Tiffany Williams told police that two months after the kids were born, a truck caught fire at their house and her husband had to run inside the home to get the babies. She said her husband grabbed two of them “like footballs” and ran, documents said.
She explained she had been responsible for most of the child care since Demetrias Williams returned to work full time.
The following day, Detective Bill Dramis met with Williams, said they were talking about a “significant level of child abuse” and told him medical experts said the injuries were consistent with someone squeezing a child out of frustration because he or she was crying too much.
Williams allegedly told Dramis, “I have done that before. ... I have with all of them in that manner.”
Williams talked about the stress he had been under, including his long hours at work, how he barely was getting sleep and that he had become emotional and knew there was a problem. He acknowledged that the babies would make little noises as he was squeezing them begging them to go to sleep, court documents said.
The father recalled coming home one night and being asked to change one of the boy’s diapers just as Williams was heading to bed. When the boy would not stay asleep and a bottle wasn’t helping him, Williams said he was holding the baby with his arms wrapped around his lower chest as he suddenly felt something was wrong and the boy started crying louder, documents said.
“He did not think he crushed him, but he believed it may have been too much or that he hurt him,” Deputy Prosecutor Emily Sullivan wrote in documents. “He said this happened about five to six times he could think of. He later said, ‘Like I said, I have done that to all of them.’”
Williams claimed he did not tell his wife about it.