US

Judge Stuns Courtroom When He Acquits Mother Who Allegedly Fractured Baby’s Skull

By Zachary Stieber

A woman accused of beating her 10-month-old daughter so severely that the little girl suffered a fractured skull and brain swelling was acquitted by a judge, leaving the courtroom stunned.

April Fox was believed to have beaten her girl, Sophia, so badly that she suffered the skull fracture. The infant had also suffered fractures in her arms and legs in her first year of life.

During the trial, Fox’s lawyer claimed that the toddler had brittle bones and genetic disorders and suffered the injuries from falling. Jurors couldn’t reach a unanimous decision, leading to a mistrial.

Prosecutors sought a second trial but Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Mark Blumstein “took the unusual step of acquitting the 34-year-old mother himself,” reported the Miami Herald.

“I’m really trying to get some picture of what happened that day,” Blumstein said late last week, according to audio of the trial obtained by the outlet.

“I’m not surprised about what the jury came to, and someone beyond any human in the court will have to answer those questions. But in light of what I heard, and after hearing the presentation from the state, I don’t think it’s going to change with any retrial of this case,” he added.

Prosecutors in court were stunned by the rare move while Fox was so surprised that she began hyperventilating.

“This is four years since this incident happened. You’ve heard the court’s concerns over the course of this case. I have spent a lot of time thinking about this case and what happened. There are unanswered questions, no doubt,” Blumstein told Fox. “None of us here were there, except maybe you and people that you know. Certainly none of the attorneys were there to know what happened.”

Fox’s attorney said the acquittal was good news but the mother won’t get her children back after they were legally removed by child welfare authorities years ago after she was accused of beating Sophia.

“It’s kind of bittersweet. She won the trial but lost the war,” said defense lawyer Kellie Peterson.

An unnamed juror said that four people wanted to convict Fox. One of the others “had a hard time getting past the fact that there were no eyewitnesses,” the juror said.

Fractures, Broken Bones

Fox was arrested and charged with child abuse, aggravated battery, and great bodily harm in June 2015.

Doctors who examined her child were treating Sophia for skull fractures and a brain bleed, reported NBC Miami. They discovered fractures to her arm and leg that had occurred at different times.

Police said that Fox was the only person taking care of the baby at the time. She was living with her boyfriend at the time.

Neighbors said they were shocked at the news.

“For a mother who birthed a child to at her child like that, what? That is catastrophic to me, just appalling,” said Ederick Johnson, according to NBC Miami.

According to NBC, Fox’s Facebook page had a number of pictures of her little girl. In one, she called Sophia “my beautiful new love.”

The feet of a newborn baby
A baby in a file photo. (Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images)

Child Abuse

An estimated 674,000 children were determined to be victims of maltreatment in 2017, according to the Department of Health & Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families. Of the victims, about 75 percent were neglected, 18 percent were physically abused, and 9 percent were sexually abused.

Nationwide, an estimated 1,720 children died from abuse and neglect, a decline from the 1,750 children who died from the same in the previous year. Officials said there was an increase in the number of referrals to Child Protective Services for an investigation but that there was a decline in the number of maltreatment cases, a phenomenon they will be probing.

Of the abused children, 25 percent were younger than 1 year old. Another 52 percent were between 1 year old and 5 years old. The children who were killed by abuse or neglect were also overwhelmingly young, with about half of the fatalities being younger than 1 year old. Boys made up 58 percent of the deaths.

Perpetrators of abuse or neglect are most often in the 25 to 34 age range. More than four-fifths (83.4 percent) of the perpetrators were between 18 and 44 years old. Perpetrators were more likely to be female.