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Parents say they ‘blacked out’ before severely abusing 6-week-old baby, court documents say

Crime Watch

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Amanda and James Berry | Bonneville County Jail

GRAPHIC WARNING:This story includes graphic descriptions of child abuse. Reader discretion is advised.

IDAHO FALLS — Two Idaho Falls parents told detectives they experienced blackouts when they caused significant injuries to their newborn girl.

The 23-year-old parents, James Arthur Berry and Amanda Berry, are both charged with felony injury to a child and an infliction of great bodily injury enhancement. The charges come after the Berrys brought their unresponsive 6-week-old baby girl to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center on July 22, “with no plausible explanation” of the infant’s injuries, according to an affidavit of probable cause obtained by EastIdahoNews.com.

When the parents took the baby girl to EIRMC, police were called to investigate. Detectives wrote in their report that medical staff determined the newborn was under her birth weight and had many fresh injuries. Initial examination by hospital staff showed the girl suffered bruising on the head, a significant tear on the edge of the mouth and diaper rash. Medical staff were performing medical procedures on the baby in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit when investigators arrived at the hospital.

“Radiology also advised in spite of being only 6-weeks-old, the infant had a number of older bone fractures in various stages of healing,” according to court documents. “The radiologist advised these injuries are consistent with a composite of trauma over multiple abusive episodes and would result in significant developmental deficits.”

Injuries to the child include a broken leg bone, broken ribs, and two skull fractures. Head scans revealed two large pockets of fluid where the temporal lobes of the brain should be. Doctors told investigators “the voids appeared to be filled with blood and eroded brain matter,” according to court documents.

The parents told investigators that night they weren’t aware of the severe injuries or how their daughter got them. The Berrys agreed to undergo a polygraph test on July 24, as detectives attempted to understand how the child was so hurt.

Detectives wrote that during the polygraph, James Berry initially denied any knowledge or involvement in causing the injuries. However, as the interview progressed, James told police he wasn’t feeling his normal self about 10 days before while taking pain medications. He described going into a “blackout” state of frustration and anger as he struggled to hold the baby because of pain. He said he didn’t remember exactly what happened, other than he knew “bad things happened to the baby.”

James told police the blackouts happened two or three times, and he “may have grabbed or squeezed the baby too hard.” He also said Amanda experiences similar blackouts with the baby.

Amanda gave investigators a similar account as her husband. She told detectives there were three times “that we blacked out and were rough when handling the baby.” Amanda said she did not know the extent of the injuries and expressed remorse for what happened.

She said she experienced stress from dealing with a sick baby, an injured husband and postpartum depression, pushing her past her breaking point, the probable cause reads. She said losing her dog to parvo during pregnancy added to her stress.

The Berrys left the interview, and detectives followed up with the baby’s pediatrician, who saw the child two days before the infant was hospitalized at EIRMC. At the time, a physician’s assistant told investigators the parents complained about the baby vomiting. Providers found the baby just at birth weight and scratches the parents attributed to the baby’s fingernails. At the follow up appointment, the provider told investigators she did not see the bruising.

“(The provider) stated she was concerned about the competence of the parents and the baby’s lack of weight gain,” according to court documents. “(She) advised the parents that they would need to bring the baby back the next day for a follow-up appointment, or they would be referred to Child Protective Services.”

CPS was ultimately called in after the polygraph interviews as the child suffered “persistent seizures,” prompting doctors to place her into a medically induced coma. After around two weeks, the infant was stabilized and placed in foster care.

Both James and Amanda Berry were arrested on Thursday and made an afternoon initial appearance. The Berrys were released to pretrial supervision. Magistrate Judge Michelle Mallard ordered they have no contact with children under the age of 5 unless approved by CPS.

Preliminary hearings for the Berrys are scheduled for Oct. 16. If convicted, each could spend up to 30 years in prison.

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