, Salem, MA

March 28, 2014

Father held in assault on baby


---- — BEVERLY — A Beverly father charged earlier this month with grabbing his 11-month-old son’s face and repeatedly slapping it when he wouldn’t stop crying will remain held without bail, a Salem District Court judge ruled yesterday following a hearing.

Christopher Van Horn, 29, of 205 Cabot St., is facing charges of child endangerment and assault and battery on a child with injury, stemming from an incident March 19.

That afternoon, police went to the apartment in response to a report by the father of another child living in the home. He said he heard loud slapping sounds coming from the bedroom, and then, moments later, his 3-year-old daughter came out of the bedroom and reported that Van Horn was hitting her baby brother.

During a hearing yesterday, Beverly Patrolman Justin Zwicker said a disheveled-looking Van Horn led him to a dim bedroom, where he found the baby on his stomach and in need of a diaper change.

After the baby was brought into a brighter room, Zwicker said he noticed a bright red bump on the side of the baby’s temple and what looked like finger marks on his face.

Van Horn began talking to the baby, saying “Hey, buddy, did you fall asleep on your sippy cup again?” as he ran his fingers over the welts on the baby’s face. Zwicker noted that there was nothing else in the crib at the time.

Prosecutors also showed the judge a copy of documents detailing Van Horn’s arrest and conviction in a Peabody burglary he committed to finance a cocaine habit in 2010.

Defense attorney Edward McNaught suggested through his questions that police did minimal investigation before charging Van Horn.

Prosecutor Patrick Collins argued that Van Horn poses “a direct and distinct risk” to the baby. “There is no more vulnerable a victim than an 11-month-old child,” said the prosecutor.

Judge Michael Lauranzano agreed to the prosecutor’s request to keep Van Horn in custody.

But he also warned prosecutors that he expects them to be ready for trial soon, suggesting the first week of June.

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