'Shaken' baby boy is still in critical condition

Friday, February 28, 2003

The five-month-old baby boy who was near death after his father allegedly shook him severely, has been moved out of pediatric intensive care.

Investigator Ralph Gordon said Wednesday that the child is still in critical condition and his prognosis is unknown. Doctors in Little Rock do not yet know for sure if the baby has serious brain damage. He had been listed in "grave condition" last month, but is breathing on his own and is being fed through a tube.

Before he was moved out of intensive care, physicians were able to slow the swelling in his brain and drain fluid to prevent further complications.

Gordon said he is receiving daily reports on the child's condition, but it is not yet possible to determine the extent of the trauma.

The child was airlifted to Children's Hospital in Little Rock in late January.

A Green Forest-area man was charged with felony first-degree domestic battery after allegedly severely injuring the boy on or about Jan. 20 at his home on County Road 839, according to Gordon.

Arthur McFarland, 33, is still being held in Carroll County Jail on $100,000 bond. McFarland is also charged with an "enhancement" to the battery charge because he allegedly inflicted the injuries in front of the baby boy's 3-year-old sibling, Gordon said.

The incident came to light after the child was first examined at Carroll Regional Medical Center Jan. 22, where doctors suspected non-accidental trauma consistent with "Shaken Baby Syndrome."

A call was placed to the Arkansas child abuse police hotline, and the child was airlifted to St. Mary's Hospital in Rogers.

Physicians examined the child and decided to airlift him to specialists at Children's Hospital in Little Rock. Two physicians at Children's Hospital diagnosed the child with bilateral subdural hematomas and retinal hemorrhages.

"All of this evidence was consistent with non-accidental trauma consistent with Shaken Baby Syndrome," the doctors said in court documents filed in Carroll County.

The physicians estimated that the injuries occurred sometime within 48 hours before the child was examined in Rogers.

Arkansas State Police contacted the sheriff's office, and investigator Gordon went looking for McFarland at his home near Denver, but was unable to locate him. McFarland was later arrested at a friend's house in Green Forest on a misdemeanor warrant out of Alpena.

According to an affidavit of probable cause, the child's mother, Janet McLemore, stated she and McFarland were the only people who cared for the child, and that McFarland was "the only person who could have caused these injuries. He does not work or leave the home," according to the affidavit.

McFarland is the biological father of the baby, Gordon said.

Gordon said the Department of Human Services had evaluated the 3-year-old sibling, and placed the child in temporary foster care.

First-degree domestic battery, a Class B felony, carries a possible penalty of five to 20 years. However, with the "enhancement" charge for allegedly committing the crime in front of another child, he could face not less than one year, nor more than 10 years, added to the end of the battery charge, if convicted.

For instance, if he served his term on the battery charge, such as five or 20 years, he would immediately begin serving the sentence on the enhancement charge. Gordon says that means that if he gets five to 20 years or is paroled, he would not be released until he served the sentence on the enhancement charge. The enhancement penalty does not allow parole or early release.

Gordon said the investigation is continuing.

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