Brain bleeds, fractured ribs and cardiac arrest are among the symptoms a Jersey Shore infant suffered after his father shook him so hard that it nearly killed him, Montoursville State Police reported.
Police said Tyler Ray Vaughan, 21, of Nippenose Township, admitted to shaking his infant son on two separate occasions: November 25 and Dec. 4, 2019.
The child survived but is now "severely neurologically devastated" and believed to be "primarily blind," Trooper James Nestico wrote in an affidavit dated Jan. 15, 2020. He also required a feeding tube upon discharge from the hospital, police said.
The infant was five weeks old on Dec. 4, 2019, when Tiadaghton Valley Regional Police received a 911 call reporting an infant in respiratory distress. Vaughan was holding the child in his Nippenose Road home when police arrived. He told police the infant had thrown up.
Sergeant Brian Fioretti grabbed the child from Vaughan, checked for a pulse and performed CPR and the infant gasped for air, according to the affidavit.
Paramedics transported the infant to Geisinger Jersey Shore Hospital, where he was stabilized and then life-flighted to the Janet Weis Children's Hospital at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville.
The medical team told police that the infant's test results were consistent with Shaken Baby Syndrome: retinal hemorrhaging, severe brain injury, soft tissue damage to the cervical spine and some EEGs indicated that he only had brain stem function left.
Scans of the child's head showed "mixed density subdural hemorrhaging which indicated a current, and a past brain bleed likely occurred," Trooper Nestico wrote. The doctor suggested the past injury was a couple weeks old, the affidavit stated.
"These injuries were noted to be caused by non-accidental trauma and suggested to be fatal," Trooper Nestico wrote.
Both Vaughan and the infant's mother, Alexa Dincher, 18, signed a contract at UPMC Susquehanna on Oct. 27, 2019 - one day after the baby's birth - stating that they had received education on Shaken Baby Syndrome and viewed a state-mandated video, Preventing Shaken Baby Syndrome.
At the hospital on Dec. 4, 2019, police interviewed Dincher. She told police she woke the baby up around 1 a.m., fed him until around 3 a.m., laid him down and then went back to bed.
She checked on him around 6 a.m. and he seemed "normal, no vomit or spit up," so she went back to bed, according to Trooper Nestico.
Dincher told police Vaughan got up around 7:30 a.m. to feed the baby.
She woke up around 7:45 a.m. with the intention of calling the doctor about the infant's past vomiting but when she saw the baby, she told Vaughan he "didn't look normal," the affidavit stated.
"She said to Tyler that something is wrong with him and Tyler responded with, 'no he's fine I just checked on him,'" Trooper Nestico wrote.
Dincher picked up her child but he dangled in her arms and gasped for air, according to the affidavit. She said Vaughan then grabbed the child from her and spun him around to face himself, and the baby's head "bobbled forward" once, Trooper Nestico wrote.
Dincher said that when Vaughan grabbed the baby to perform CPR, "he did so in a quick manner" and "may have 'shaken' him while trying to get air into him," Trooper Nestico wrote.
Corporal Joseph Akers interviewed Tyler Vaughan at the hospital. Vaughan reportedly admitted to having to "shake" or give little "vibrations" to the infant in the past to wake him up.
Around 6:30 or 7 a.m. on the morning of Dec. 4, 2019, Vaughan said the infant had spit up on his bib. Vaughan said he cleaned him up and tried to wake him by rubbing his stomach, according to the affidavit.
"He briefly woke up and then 'went limp' again. Tyler said he then had to 'lightly shake' him to try and wake him up," Trooper Nestico wrote.
Corporal Akers said he gave Vaughan a pillow to demonstrate the motion.
"Tyler then demonstrated by placing his thumbs across the front of [the victim's] chest, hands under his arm pits, and fingers across his back. He demonstrated a back and forth motion with the pillow for a couple seconds," Trooper Nestico wrote.
Vaughan placed the baby back in his bassinet and went to make him a bottle, according to police. That's when the mother, Dincher, woke up and found their child unresponsive, police said.
Vaughan's interview was continued at the state police Montoursville barracks, where he reportedly admitted to not telling anyone about a prior incident where he had shaken the infant.
He told police that between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. on Nov. 25, 2019, he woke the infant up to feed him, according to the affidavit.
"He couldn't get [the victim] to wake up to eat so he 'shook him around to get him with the program.' Tyler said he knew if [the victim] didn't wake up now he would sleep for another two hours and he just wanted him to wake up," Trooper Nestico wrote.
Police said Vaughan then told them he "shook [the infant] hard in quick vibrations."
Vaughan told police he didn't tell anyone, including the victim's mother, because "he knew he had done something wrong," according to the affidavit.
"Vaughan added that he had thought about that incident all day today because he knew that's what led [the victim] to be in the hospital," Trooper Nestico wrote.
Police said the infant spent six weeks in the Pediatric Care Unit of Geisinger Medical Center before being discharged.
The affidavit did not state to whom the infant was discharged but the mother has not been charged in relation to this incident.
Vaughan was charged with one count each of first degree felony aggravated assault - victim less than 13 and defendant 18 or older, first degree felony endangering welfare of children - parent/guardian commits offense, second degree felony aggravated assault - victim less than six and defendant 18 or older, first degree misdemeanor simple assault, and second degree misdemeanor recklessly endangering another person.
Vaughan's next court date is 9 a.m. on Feb. 19, 2020, before District Magistrate Jerry C. Lepley.