, Salem, MA

March 21, 2014

Father held in abuse of baby son


---- — BEVERLY — An 11-month-old baby was hospitalized Wednesday afternoon after his father grabbed him by the face and slapped him at least five times, hard enough to leave a hand-shaped welt on his face, Beverly police say.

And police say, Christopher Van Horn, 29, of 205 Cabot St., Beverly, committed the assault at least partly in front of his 3-year-old stepdaughter.

“This case distresses me,” said Salem District Court Judge James Barretto, who ordered Van Horn held without bail pending a hearing next Thursday to determine whether he poses a danger if released.

Van Horn’s wife believes he does.

“I don’t want to know what comes next,” the woman told the judge as she obtained a domestic restraining order barring Van Horn from contact with either her, their son or her daughter from a prior relationship.

Prosecutor Lindsay Shaheen said the father of the 3-year-old girl showed up with her at the police station shortly after 1 p.m. Wednesday, reporting that he suspected that a child was being abused.

The man, William Manning, said that when he went to pick up his daughter, he heard Van Horn yelling at the baby, who was crying.

Manning and his daughter left, but they returned a moment later because she had forgotten her favorite stuffed animal. While the girl was in her bedroom getting the toy, Manning told police he heard five loud slaps and then the baby crying harder and more loudly.

“My stepdaddy hit my brother,” the girl told her father.

Police went to the apartment, which is near the police station, to check. After about two minutes, a “disheveled” Van Horn answered the door, complaining that police had woken him and the baby.

“It’s his naptime and mine, too,” Van Horn allegedly told officers.

Police found the baby in a portable crib, with visible swelling and finger marks on his face, Shaheen told the judge.

The baby also had what appeared to be a significant diaper rash.

Van Horn was described by police as “confrontational” with officers, and he referred to Manning as a “piece of (expletives).”

Van Horn yesterday pleaded not guilty to charges of assault and battery on a child with injuries and child endangerment.

His attorney, Edward McNaught, said his client denies the allegations. He suggested that there is bad blood between Manning and Van Horn and said Manning “arguably has a motive against my client.”

As for the 3-year-old girl’s account, McNaught questioned that, suggesting that the description of what she said was a “strained turn of phrase” for a young child and not credible.

Instead, he said, the child’s injuries could have come from a fall.

Van Horn’s wife told Barretto that she was at work when she got a call that her son was in the hospital.

“They showed me pictures. There was no doubt in my mind that it was a hand mark. It’s still there. I need to protect myself and my son and my daughter,” she said.

The Department of Children and Families is also looking into the incident, police said.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.

Abuse: Defense says injuries could have come from a fall