BY JULIE MANGANIS
---- — BEVERLY — A Beverly man charged with beating, kicking and threatening to kill his 11-year-old daughter nearly two weeks ago is free on bail, after a judge denied a request by prosecutors to hold the man without bail as a danger to the child and others.
Robert DiPalma, 32, of 23 Fayette St., Beverly, is facing charges of assault and battery and threats to kill following the Dec. 28 incident in his home, which was reported by neighbors who could hear what sounded like a body hitting the floor.
The alleged source of DiPalma’s rage? His daughter had used a bathroom in the home that he had deemed off-limits to the child, his wife told police.
The child’s maternal grandmother yesterday expressed outrage over the decision to release DiPalma on bail.
“This world is crazy,” said Nancy Hill of East Boston, who now fears that her grandchild will end up dead.
“It only takes one time,” Hill said. “You don’t hurt a child.”
DiPalma’s wife, who is the child’s stepmother, told police that she saw DiPalma shove the girl into a closet door and spank her because he was angry that she’d lied about using the bathroom and about Christmas money she had lost. She also told police that DiPalma had folded the toilet paper a particular way when he left that morning, and that he became angry when he returned and saw that it was no longer folded.
The child, who weighs 60 pounds and is around 4 feet tall, began crying when police asked her about the bathroom.
She said her father struck her repeatedly in the face; kicked her right side, hip and leg; and grabbed her by the shoulder and neck and pushed her into a closet door, telling her he was “going to break her neck and kill her,” according to the police report.
DiPalma, who is 6 feet 4 inches tall and weighs 250 pounds, according to court papers, told police he was simply disciplining the child because she had been lying. He told the officers that if she told them that he’d tried to choke her, she was lying about that, as well.
Police noticed finger marks on the girl’s face and red areas on her body but did not note other injuries to the child.
She was taken to the home of her stepmother’s mother, and the Department of Children and Families was notified, according to court papers.
The neighbors who spoke to police said they had heard yelling from the home in the past but that this time the sounds caused them to be “frightened,” according to the police report.
DiPalma was initially ordered held without bail following his Salem District Court arraignment on Dec. 31, after prosecutors from Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett’s office filed a request to have DiPalma deemed a danger and held without bail for up to 90 days.
But following a two-hour hearing on Friday afternoon, Judge Daniel Crane instead released DiPalma on $2,000 cash bail with conditions that include no contact with the child and to stay at least 50 yards away from her at all times; that he have no contact with witnesses other than his wife; that he report to a probation officer twice a week, when he will be subject to random drug and alcohol testing; that he take part in counseling; and that he either maintain employment or be involved in a job search.
Court papers describe DiPalma as unemployed.
DiPalma’s privately hired attorney, Ed O’Reilly, did not return calls seeking comment yesterday afternoon.
Hill, who testified at Friday’s hearing about seeing bruises on the girl in the past, said she had no idea her grandchild had been hurt as she prepared for a monthly court-ordered visit on the weekend before New Year’s Day. Hill had gone to Probate Court in Boston to obtain visitation with the child following the death of the girl’s mother.
She didn’t hear from DiPalma; his wife called on Saturday to cancel the visit, saying the child was in the hospital. Then, she said, she heard nothing for days, despite repeated calls trying to find out why the girl was in the hospital.
Finally, on New Year’s Day, she decided to call Beverly police to have a well-being check done, and that’s when she learned of the incident and DiPalma’s arrest.
Hill said she’s raised concerns about abuse to the Suffolk Probate Court and now wishes that she had called the Department of Children and Families, though she’s still skeptical of that agency after one of her own children was temporarily placed in foster care decades ago and then abused there.
“I’ve seen bruises on her eye,” Hill said about her granddaughter. “She’s in fear.”
On the night DiPalma was arrested, the child sent Hill a text message, saying, “I love you and miss you so much,” Hill said. “That was her way of telling me something was wrong.”
Crane was appointed and confirmed by the Governor’s Council following a hearing in October.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.