police stock

A Mahoningtown couple are accused of abusing a 5-month-old baby girl, who hospital experts said was diagnosed with broken ribs, skull fractures and other injuries.

New Castle police have charged Thomas Anthony Perod, 31, and Ashley Nichole Leonard, 29, both of 201 N. Cedar St., in connection with their child's injuries that she reportedly suffered between Sept. 1, 2017, and Jan. 31, 2018. The fractures were discovered by medical personnel at UPMC Jameson in January 2018 when the child was taken there with chest congestion, according to a criminal complaint.

The police have been investigating the matter for the past year, and they ultimately filed charges against them Tuesday.

Sgt. Sheila Panella, the city police detective who investigated the case, said the case took a year to resolve because the couple had chances to go to the police station and talk to the police, but the mother kept delaying it. Leonard either wouldn't show up or said she could not reach her attorney, Panella said. She said Leonard also had the chance to take a polygraph test but it didn't happen. It also took the investigators time to decipher all of the text messages retrieved with the search warrants, she said.

The paperwork states that hospital workers contacted Lawrence County Children and Youth Services about the infant's injuries, when the baby had been taken there on Jan. 27 last year with congestion and a rapid heartbeat. The hospital reported that it found some healing rib fractures, and the baby was transported by ambulance the next day to Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh.

Examinations of the child in the Pittsburgh facility showed multiple injuries, including two skull fractures, one on each side of her head, healing rib fractures, multiple corner fractures on both legs, a ligament injury and a bruise on the left chin, according to the paperwork.

Leonard, who is the baby's mother, told hospital personnel that she had dropped the baby in the bathtub in late November, the court papers state. She told hospital personnel that the child had fallen off the couch onto a hardwood floor six days before she went to the hospital, police reported. She also had told police the baby was hit in the head with a shampoo bottle that she had dropped.

The paperwork said the child was placed in a neck brace and was in critical condition in the intensive care unit at Children's Hospital.

The police reported in the complaint that, "due to the numerous injuries, this is indicative of abuse."

The investigating detective obtained a search warrant on Feb. 15, 2018, for the couple's cell phones, and related devices, the report states.

In reviewing the baby's medical records, the police learned that the baby had some previous falls and that the child may have been dropped in the shower or bathtub, the complaint states. The medical paperwork also showed that physicians expressed concern about a lump on the baby's head and the doctor called Children and Youth regarding the mother's concerns about trauma and abuse because of random bruising on the baby.

Police reported in the complaint that one of the text messages between Leonard and Perod were regarding cigarette burns and bruises on her cheek and head at 3 months old. 

On Jan. 28, a family member texted Leonard from the hospital, saying "blood at the bottom of brain is from newer injury."

Leonard and Perod each are charged with aggravated assault of a victim younger than 13 years old, endangering the welfare of children, recklessly endangering another person and simple assault. 

They were arraigned yesterday by District Judge Melissa A. Amodie, who committed them to the Lawrence County jail in lieu of $15,000 bond each.

dwachter@ncnewsonline.com

Reporter

Debbie's been a journalist at the New Castle News since 1978, and covers county government, police and fire, New Castle schools, environment and various other realms. She also writes features, takes photos and video and copy edits.

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