A father of a 2-month-old with skull fractures and torn ligaments said she was critically injured Tuesday when she fell off the couch as he was changing her diaper, according to testimony in Columbus Recorder’s Court.
Nijil Alston, 23, pleaded not guilty on Thursday to one count each of first-degree child cruelty and aggravated battery. He was ordered held in the Muscogee County Jail under bonds totaling $150,000.
Judge Julius Hunter bound the case over to Superior Court.
Columbus police were called to Midtown Medical Center around 11:40 a.m. Tuesday to investigate an assault of a 2-month-old girl.
The newborn suffered from skull fractures, cracked ribs and torn ligaments. She also has bruising throughout her body, including her right eye, private parts and rear end.
Sgt. Wendy Holland said the infant is no longer able to roll over on her own and she can’t breathe properly because of a brain injury. She was transported to Egleston children’s hospital in Atlanta, where she is in critical condition with cranial pressure.
Officials spoke to the victim’s family at the hospital. They said Alston was at Midtown Medical Center before police arrived, but he left out of fear that he would be “accused of wrongdoing,” Holland testified.
The mother said her daughter didn’t have any injuries when she left her with Alston on Tuesday, but Holland said it’s possible that the child’s ribs were fractured at an earlier date.
The family told police that Alston was alone with the child when she was critically injured between 10 and 11 a.m. Tuesday at his house in the 1100 block of Chalbena Avenue.
Police found Alston later that night around 8:35 p.m. and questioned him about the child’s injuries. He allegedly demonstrated the same account of the incident he gave to the hospital staff.
“The defendant stated that the child rolled off the couch as he was trying to change her diaper,” Holland testified. “He grabbed her and then held her to his chest. As he was holding her to his chest, she started to slip and she fell on his cast.”
The detective said Alston, who has a cast on his arm, told her he couldn’t recall whether she struck her head on the floor or table. Holland said they are still investigating to determine what led to the baby’s injuries.
The Division of Family and Children Services was also called in to investigate the incident. Attorney Jennifer Curry, who is representing Alston, said her client has lost custody of the child.
Curry said Alston doesn’t have a history of violence. She said he’s married with two children.
“DFCS won’t allow him to see the baby, but that is his main concern,” Curry said. “He just wants to make sure she is doing OK and pulls through this.”