LYNN — Child welfare officials allowed a baby boy to remain in a home where prosecutors said he was fatally assaulted by his mother’s boyfriend, despite having already placed his older brother in foster care, and after the infant and his twin brother were born with drugs in their systems.
Prosecutors said Wednesday that the Department of Children & Families, the state’s child protective services agency, removed the twins’ 3-year-old brother in June 2012 from the home that their mother, Jennifer Nelson, shared with her boyfriend, Anthony Gideika. But officials permitted the twin infants to remain despite concern over whether Gideika and Nelson could care for them.
Gideika, 33, was arraigned on charges of brutally beating 3-month-old Chase Gideika, who died Tuesday from massive head injuries consistent with being violently shaken and slammed. Gideika pleaded not guilty and was ordered held on $100,000 bail.
Prosecutors said doctors who examined Chase had never seen another case where a child was abused so harshly.
The police report said the infant sustained a skull fracture, internal bleeding, and leg fractures consistent with shaking or jerking. He was bruised about the head, indicating he was struck multiple times. A lens in his eye had become dislocated, a result of a “massive slam against something.” A pediatrician said that the injuries were fresh and that it would have taken many blows to cause them.
According to investigators, Gideika said he had recently learned that the twins were not his biological children, a discovery that “set him off” and led him to start abusing prescription drugs.
Gideika called 911 early Monday when he saw that Chase was not breathing, then tried to resuscitate him. When police arrived, Gideika appeared “despondent, unemotional, and glazed over,” according to court records. After Chase was taken to the hospital, Gideika was uncooperative with police and appeared to handle Chase’s twin brother, Anthony Jr., roughly, authorities said.
Anthony Jr. was apparently unharmed, and was taken into protective custody. He is currently in foster care, according to DCF.
In a statement, the agency said that the family had been receiving services for about a year and that a social worker last visited the home in early June.
The agency said it took custody of Nelson’s 3-year-old last summer after receiving a report of neglect, but declined to provide details. He was placed in foster care, the agency said.
After the newborn twins tested positive for benzodiazapan, a commonly abused sedative, and methadone, which is used to combat heroin withdrawal, Nelson and Gideika took steps to keep the children, state officials said.
“Since DCF became involved with the family last year, both Ms. Nelson and Mr. Gideika have been engaged in treatment programs, while also receiving supportive parenting services from community providers to address their individual needs and issues,” the agency said. “The family was also receiving support from extended family members to assist them in caring for their twin boys.”
When a social worker visited the home in June, both children appeared healthy and cared for the department said. A spokeswoman for the department said she did not know when the next visit was scheduled to occur.
Jetta Bernier — who directs Massachusetts Citizens for Children, a child advocacy group — said the agency probably decided against removing the children because it had received no reports of violence.
“If there had been physical abuse of the first child, I suspect they would have taken a different tack with the twins,” she said. “That would have been a red flag that subsequent children would have been at high risk. But with a report of neglect, I think they had a sense that the way to go was to provide services to the family.”
The range of services provided, she said, indicated that the agency was “aware this was not a risk-free home.”
According to court records, Gideika told investigators that while he was having a “difficult time’’ with the news that he was not the twins’ father, as he had believed, he did not take it out on the infant. His lawyer, Rebecca Whitehill, said Gideika is adamant he did not attack Chase and “denies this [was] anything other than accidental.’’
Gideika said he was sitting on the couch holding Chase on his lap when the doorbell rang Saturday night. Without thinking, Gideika said, he jumped out of his seat, which sent the child tumbling onto a toy. The infant bruised his genital area when he landed, then fell to the floor and hurt his head.
Gideika did not seek medical help immediately because “Chase did not cry hysterically, so it did not strike him as that serious,’’ according to court records.
He also said he had previously dropped Chase when he took too many drugs and nodded off while holding him.
Nelson, the mother of the twins, was at a tattoo parlor and had left Gideika to care for the children, authorities said. She attended the arraignment and left the courthouse in tears. Gideika’s parents and sister also attended and left without speaking to reporters.
An Army veteran, Gideika was trying to get admitted to a Veterans Administration hospital when he was arrested. Don Purrington, a peer specialist with the state Department of Veterans’ Affairs who was with Gideika at the time of his arrest, said he is disabled as a result of his service. He was a combat engineer from 2003 to 2006.
Last year, Gideika was convicted in Lynn District Court of drunken driving and giving a false name. At the time, he was under a “no drive” order that barred him from getting behind the wheel, records show.
He was arrested again in April for driving under the influence and spent nearly three months behind bars.
At Gideika’s home, a neighbor named Jennifer Rich said she would often see him with the twins, and saw nothing amiss.
“It’s a shame,’ she said.