Claudio’s girlfriend went to police, but not about the child. She reported that Claudio had struck her on Monday night during their argument, and Claudio was arrested on a domestic assault charge. He never returned to the woman’s Read Street home after that, moving in with his father on Dow Street because of a restraining order.
Following his indictment two weeks later, Claudio, who was on probation for a Florida case, was arrested as he stepped off a community service van outside the Salem courthouse last Friday afternoon.
Defense lawyer Joseph Collins argued that the case is circumstantial and that many of the child’s injuries could be explained by both Claudio’s account and the presence of other children in the apartment at the time.
“This is more of a case of a defendant refusing to seek medical care,” Collins argued. “This is not a case of attempted murder. It is, at most, a case of neglect.”
Collins suggested that one of the other children in the house, a 7-year-old whom the victim's family members described as mentally ill or suffering severe behavioral issues, including cruelty to animals, could be responsible for the injuries.
But MacDougall told the judge that the force used to strangle the girl is beyond anything a young child could muster.
Feeley, in setting bail, also noted Claudio’s ties to Florida, where he has a criminal record of robbery and narcotics charges.
“I am concerned about the risk of flight, given his time in Florida,” Feeley said.
A pretrial conference is scheduled for May 7.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at email@example.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.