Thursday, January 7, 2010

Accused of blinding infant, father charged with assault



Prosecutors have filed child abuse charges against a Auburn man following allegations that trauma he caused to his infant son's head may have blinded the child for life.

According to police statements, the 4-month-old boy was rushed to the hospital on Dec. 28 after his father, 23-year-old Clifton Haugen, called 911 to report that the child was limp and unresponsive.

Arriving at Seattle Children's hospital, the child was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury as well as fractured ribs. The injuries, as well as several older, partially healed ailments, appeared to be caused by violence, according to police reports.

So severe were the child's injuries, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Charles Sergis said in court documents, that the child's life remained in jeopardy.

"It is likely that (the boy) will either be blind or have vision problems from this assault," Sergis told the court Monday. "It is also likely that (he) will have long-term or permanent effects from the brain injury. … (His) prognosis for survival is guarded."

Speaking to Auburn police, the child's mother said she could not explain the child's injuries.

She told detectives she and the boy had been playing minutes before the alleged assault, according to court documents.

Haugen was watching the child while she took a shower, she police. When she heard the child fuss, she called to Haugen and asked that he bring the baby into the bathroom.

When Haugen arrived with his son, the boy was unconscious and limp, she told police, according to court documents. Holding the child, police claim, she felt the boy's ribs cracking.

Speaking with detectives the day after the child was hospitalized, Haugen allegedly told officers he was carrying the boy up a flight of stairs when the boy "made a noise and went limp."

Recognizing the extent of the child's injuries, Auburn police contacted child services and had the child removed to protective custody. Detectives the following day re-interviewed the child's mother, who allegedly said Haugen had broken down in tears that morning and claimed he'd fallen down a flight of stairs with the child.

Confronted by police, Haugen allegedly repeated that claim. Those who examined the child, though, said the injuries could not have been caused by such a fall.

Haugen, who has been charged with first-degree assault of a child, remains jailed on $750,000 bail at the Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center.

Levi Pulkkinen can be reached at 206-448-8348

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