RILEY COUNTY, Kan. (WIBW) -- A trial date has been set for the Ogden man accused of violently shaking his girlfriend's baby, leaving the infant with fatal injuries.
Michael Dechant, 19, appeared in Riley County District Court Monday and pleaded not guilty to charges of first degree murder and child abuse during his arraignment.
Dechant is accused of killing his girlfriend’s six-month-old son, Dominick Lubrano, who had been left in his care.
The infant was pronounced dead at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City on Monday, March 18, 2013, several days after receiving deadly injuries at the Ogden apartment where he lived with his mother, Sabrina Lubrano, her then 18-month-old son Damien Lubrano and Dechant.
Riley County police officers and emergency personnel responded Friday, March 15, 2013 at 5:20 PM to a unit in the Parkside Apartments on Seventh Street in Ogden for a report of a baby who was not breathing. The child was taken to Mercy Regional Health Center in Manhattan and then airlifted to Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City for treatment where he passed away three days later.
Sabrina Lubrano said she went to a nearby convenience store that night for several minutes with her mother, Angela Adams. Dechant was watching her two sons at their apartment. The women returned to a horrifying scene. Dechant told them that something was wrong with Dominick and a neighbor was giving the baby CPR in an effort to revive him. Adams saw the baby on the floor of the neighbor’s apartment and said he was “lifeless” and “bluish.”
According to Sabrina Lubrano, she left her children with Dechant many times before without any problems.
Detective Brian Johnson with the Riley County Police Department testified during Dechant's preliminary hearing last month that he interviewed Dechant on the night of the incident and there were no indications of child abuse when Dechant provided his first account of what happened inside the apartment. According to Johnson, Dechant said he was “frustrated” that he had to take care of the kids that day and made a microwavable meal for Damien and a bottle for Dominick, propping him up in his baby swing to drink it. Distracted with Damien making a mess with food, Dechant said he heard a gurgling sound from Dominick and noticed that he had turned gray in color and rushed him to the neighbor’s apartment for help.
Johnson says he soon learned from medical personnel at Children’s Mercy Hospital that abuse had caused Dominick’s injuries and when he interviewed Dechant again, Dechant admitted that he shook Dominick.
When asked why he shook the child, Johnson said Dechant told him Dominick was “fussing" and he “wanted to shut him up.” When asked why he withheld the information in his original statements to police, Johnson said Dechant responded that he “didn’t want to look like the bad guy” and also admitted to shaking the infant around 10 times before. In a later interview, Johnson said Dechant added that he was “pissed” and “wanted to smack it,” referring to Dominick.
Johnson went on to testify that according to the autopsy, the baby’s death was ruled a homicide caused by “non-accidental head trauma,” often referred to as Shaken Baby Syndrome. When he saw Dominick in the hospital, Johnson said he noticed bruises and cranial swelling on the infant and during the autopsy, contusions were reportedly found on Dominick’s torso.
The defense, lead by Larry McRell, Chief Public Defender for the North Central Regional Public Defender's Office, pointed out during the preliminary hearing that police did not “age” the bruises on Dominick’s body to determine how long he had them. He called Sabrina Lubrano to the stand and she told the court that Dominick had fallen out of his baby swing before, landing on the floor below, and that he was not strapped into the swing.
Michael Dechant's trial is set to start on December 6, 2013 at the Riley County Courthouse. It will continue December 9-13, 2013. He remains in custody.