SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

February 26, 2013

Father admits hurting infant

23-year-old gets 3-4 years in prison, blames PTSD from Iraq war service

PEABODY — A Peabody man who admitted to shaking and “head-butting” his 7-week-old daughter because she would not stop crying while he was trying to play Xbox was sentenced to three to four years in state prison yesterday.

The baby suffered brain damage and may have permanent damage to her vision.

Richard Elias, 23, received the prison term, to be followed by two years of supervised probation, as a result of a plea agreement.

That agreement was negotiated after it became apparent that an important witness in the case — the infant’s mother and Elias’ wife — had dropped her divorce complaint and was no longer interested in testifying against him. In fact, Rachel Elias, 38, sat just a few feet from her husband, chatting with him, prior to the start of yesterday’s hearing and, according to court papers, has taken the baby, Isabella, to see him in jail.

Elias’ lawyer laid blame for the abuse on post-traumatic stress disorder, arising from his service in Iraq with the U.S. Army in 2007. As part of a unit that searched for mines and improvised explosive devices, Elias came upon the scene of a suicide bombing that had killed approximately 15 people, his lawyer said.

The abuse that led to two counts of assault and battery on a child causing serious injury occurred in October 2011, when Elias, 22, was home alone with the baby, prosecutor Kate MacDougall told Salem Superior Court Judge Timothy Feeley.

On Oct. 20, Rachel Elias had gone out to pick up her two older children when her husband found himself changing Isabella’s diaper. He later told investigators that he became frustrated when the infant immediately soiled her new diaper and confessed to shaking the baby and slamming her head into the table.

That shaking triggered a series of seizures in the infant, who was evaluated. But Elias said nothing about what he had done, and doctors sent the baby home, not sure what had caused the seizures.

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