Bar Nunn Man Admits Accidentally Injuring Infant, Pleads Guilty
A Bar Nunn man who admitted that he unintentionally fractured an infant's leg and three ribs would face no prison time under a plea agreement with prosecutors.
Christopher C. Denman, 32, pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of child endangerment Wednesday before District Judge Daniel Forgey. In exchange for the guilty pleas, Assistant District Attorney Kevin Taheri said, the state would recommend suspended terms of incarceration and three years of supervised probation at Denman's sentencing hearing.
However, should he violate the conditions of his probation, Denman would be brought back before the court on a "cold plea" basis. In that circumstance, the plea agreement would be void and prosecutors would be able to ask Forgey to send Denman to prison for up to six years, as the second misdemeanor charge carries a felony enhancement.
According to an affidavit of probable cause, the Natrona County Sheriff's Office began investigating the case on Nov. 7 after medical personnel reported potential child abuse to the Wyoming Department of Family Services.
The victim in the case was "just shy of three months old" old when he was taken for medical treatment Nov. 2 after Denman heard a "pop" while feeding the child. A doctor concluded that an x-ray showed a transverse fracture to the child's right femur.
Court documents say the child was recognized as a "failure to thrive" infant. The term does not refer to a disease or disorder, but has been recognized as a sign that a child is undernourished. At nearly three months old, the child reportedly weighed just 8.5 pounds.
Because the femur fracture seemed suspicious and the "failure to thrive" designation meant the child was at greater risk of being abused, doctors conducted a skeletal survey which included x-ray images of the child's chest. Doctors found suspected fractures to the infant's fifth, sixth and seventh right ribs.
On Nov. 7, one doctor told investigators that the child's injuries, "beyond a shadow of a doubt," were not the result of accidental trauma.
However, as he entered his pleas Wednesday morning, Denman told the court that he had accidentally injured the child. The femur fracture, Denman said, occurred Nov. 2 when he moved the infant while bottle-feeding him, and the child's leg got caught on Denman's shirt.
The rib fractures, Denman said, occurred when he was holding the child roughly a month prior.
"Were you holding him, maybe, too tightly," Denman's attorney, Rich Jamieson, asked his client.
"Perhaps," Denman responded.
Denman's statements in court regarding the injuries being accidental in nature are consistent with his prior statements to investigators as represented in the affidavit of probable cause.
Denman told an investigator that when the child's ribs were broken, he had been holding the infant. Denman reportedly said that he was upset because the child wouldn't stop crying and squeezed the infant "out of love," but squeezed hard.
In the same interview with investigators, Denman said that his movement of the child was "fast" and "reckless" when the infant's leg got caught on his shirt, according to the affidavit. He allegedly said that while he was sure he had caused the infant's injuries, he had no intention of hurting the child.
Denman was free on bond at the time of Wednesday's hearing. A sentencing date has not been set.