SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

December 17, 2011

Father charged with 'head butting' infant remains held

By Julie Manganis
Staff writer

PEABODY — The Peabody father charged with shaking and head-butting his 7-week-old daughter in October could seek release on bail at his next court appearance, his lawyer suggested during a hearing yesterday.

Richard Elias, 22, pleaded not guilty to two counts of assault and battery on a child causing substantial bodily injury during his arraignment yesterday in Salem Superior Court.

The baby, Isabella, who suffered severe injuries, including some brain death, has been discharged from the hospital, said prosecutor Kate MacDougall. Her long-term prognosis is still unclear, but she is expected to be blind and will likely suffer from severe developmental issues.

Elias allegedly confessed to shaking the child, triggering seizures, while caring for her while his wife was out picking up her other children. Two weeks later, as his wife attended a Halloween party — her first night out since giving birth in September — Elias confessed to shaking and "head butting" the infant, triggering more seizures.

He also allegedly squeezed the infant hard enough to break ribs, MacDougall said.

Elias's wife is now seeking a divorce, the prosecutor said.

Elias had been held without bail as a danger to the child and the public but yesterday, MacDougall opted instead to ask for a high cash bail of $75,000.

MacDougall said she was concerned a dangerousness finding and detention order would expire before the complex case was ready to be tried.

But Elias's attorney, Mark Schmidt, asked Judge Timothy Feeley for more time to prepare a bail argument in the case.

Feeley agreed to set the $75,000 bail requested by MacDougall without prejudice, so Schmidt could return to court at a future hearing and argue for lower bail.

Schmidt said in court yesterday that his client, who served as a Marine in Germany and Iraq, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, which is likely to be an issue raised again in his defense.

A pre-trial hearing, and possibly a new bail argument, is set for Jan. 30.

If convicted, Elias faces up to 15 years in prison on each of the two counts against him.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis may be reached at 978-338-2521 or at jmanganis@salemnews.com.