The Ottumwa Courier

April 25, 2013

Investigator says account of toddler injuries didn't add up

Courier Staff Writer


An investigator found an Ottumwa man's account of events suspicious after a toddler was allegedly assaulted this week.

At approximately 5:30 p.m. Monday, officers responded to 117 E. Woodland Ave. following a 911 call that a 2-year-old boy had passed out. Upon arrival, officers found the boy unresponsive. He was transported to Ottumwa Regional Health Center and emergency room staff said the boy was suffering from "traumatic head injuries," according to the application for a search warrant. The boy was then life-flighted to University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

Officers spoke with the boy's mother, Lauren Young, and her boyfriend, Dustin Armstrong, at ORHC. During an interview with Armstrong, he said he was the only adult home and was the 911 caller after the boy was injured.

"Armstrong advised that [the boy] and his younger brother had been laid down for a nap," according to the application. "Upon the boys waking up, [the boy] had been whining. Armstrong stated that he had 'tapped' [the boy] on the underside of [his] chin using the back of his hand. Armstrong stated that he might have caught [the boy's] tongue between [his] teeth."

Armstrong told officers that the boy then went into the bathroom to use his potty training chair, during which Armstrong left the bathroom for a few seconds.

"When he returned, he observed [the boy] have some type of seizure and become unresponsive," according to the application.

He said the boy fell over in the training chair and onto the floor. He then used glasses of water to splash the boy in an attempt to get him to respond, then put the boy in bed.

"Upon picking [the boy] up from his bed, he shook [him] to try and wake him up," according to the application. "Armstrong stated that he was freaked out and might have shaken [the boy] vigorously. When Armstrong described picking [the boy] up just prior to shaking him, he stated blood had come out of [the boy's] mouth."

Armstrong said the boy's blood got on his blue, button-up shirt. But when officers spoke to him at ORHC, Armstrong was no longer wearing the shirt and said it was still at the residence.

Armstrong also described changing the boy's pants, saying that the boy had been wearing red shorts, but after he became unresponsive, Armstrong took the boy's shorts off and dressed him in a pair of pants.

"When I asked Armstrong where the red shorts were located, Armstrong stated that the shorts might be in the laundry," Investigator Aaron Vose wrote in the application. "When asked about this, Armstrong stated that he had put a load of laundry in after he had laid [the boy] down in [his] bed. Armstrong stated that he had placed the red shorts in with the laundry. Your affiant found it strange that Armstrong chose to put a load of laundry in after he observed [the boy] to be unresponsive. Your affiant was further perplexed by this action as Armstrong had described how distraught he was upon locating [the boy] in an unresponsive state."

Vose said probable cause existed to search the residence. He also said he doesn't believe Armstrong's account of events to be consistent with the injuries described by medical personnel.

"[The boy] was described as having significant head injuries," Vose wrote. "None of the events described by Armstrong would account for these injuries. ...your affiant believes that [the boy's] injuries are the result of some type of assault rather than one of the mechanism described by Armstrong."

At 1:48 a.m. Tuesday, officers conducted a search warrant at the home and seized 27 items, including a blue button-up shirt from the master bedroom; a towel, baby wipe and a section of a pillow, all with red stains; and one pair of child's red shorts from a corner of the master bedroom, another red pair from the bathroom floor and another red pair from the dryer.