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October 18, 2013

Defense seeks dismissal of child abuse charges in Salem

SALEM — The attorney for a Salem man charged with the brutal beating and strangling of a 2-year-old girl last March urged a Salem Superior Court judge yesterday to dismiss most of the charges against his client.

The reason offered by Juan Javier Claudio’s lawyer: No one saw Claudio assault the child, and no one can rule out the possibility that another child in the home caused the girl’s injuries.

The latter scenario, argued a prosecutor, was highly unlikely, given the force that would have been required to squeeze the girl’s neck hard enough to create pockets of trapped air between her skin and muscle.

Claudio, 28, of 10 Dow St., was charged last March after the toddler’s grandparents arrived at the apartment to pick her up and discovered that she was lethargic and covered in bruises and red marks, including one on her stomach.

They took her to the North Shore Children’s Hospital emergency room, where doctors concluded she had been beaten.

But Claudio’s attorney, Joseph Collins, argued yesterday that the evidence before the grand jury, including testimony by a doctor who treated the child and by other adults who had been in the home, was not enough to support charges of attempted murder and assault and battery on a child causing substantial bodily injury.

“Nobody has testified to seeing the defendant inflict those injuries,” Collins argued. “No forensic evidence links him to the injuries, and there is no admission from my client.”

Prosecutors instead relied on the testimony of the doctor, but Collins said the doctor offered no supporting testimony for his conclusion that the injuries were caused by an adult-sized hand.

Collins suggested that the attacker could have been another child in the apartment that weekend, a 7-year-old who has a history of biting. Bite marks were found on the girl, he said.

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