A judge wasted no time rendering his verdict in the case of a father who claimed that he dropped his 7-week-old baby and, in so doing, accidentally caused her severe brain injuries.
After attorneys completed their closing arguments Thursday, Douglas County District Judge James Gleason found Jacob Ford, 23, guilty of the charge prosecutors had filed: child abuse resulting in serious injury. He faces up to 50 years in prison when he is sentenced in April.
The judge’s finding left Ford shaking his head and his family in tears.
Judge Gleason ruled that baby Skyler Ford’s injuries could not have happened the way Ford claimed: that while changing her diaper, Ford dropped Skyler and the baby hit her head on the crib railing and then the wood floor.
Three doctors had testified that Skyler Ford suffered severe head trauma, including: bleeding behind her eyes, on the brain and between the hemispheres of her brain.
Such trauma typically occurs when a baby is shaken or slammed against a hard surface, said Dr. Suzanne Haney, an expert at Project Harmony, a center that investigates crimes against children. Skyler suffered a faint bruise on the back of her head but didn’t have any skull fractures — leading doctors to believe she was shaken violently or slammed against a cushioned surface, such as the arm of a couch.
The injury occurred a couple of weeks after Jacob Ford had lost his job as a tree trimmer.
Ford, 23, and Cara Payne, 32, had met on Tinder in late August 2016 and began living together in mid-September 2016. By late October, Payne discovered she was pregnant. She gave birth to Skyler on June 13.
Seven weeks later, Payne, 32, went to work her overnight shift as a medical helicopter dispatcher. She left Skyler with Ford and a coworker who lived with her.
The coworker, a paramedic in training, awoke about 4:30 a.m. Aug. 3 to a scream from Ford. She rushed to find Skyler lifeless and not breathing. She began CPR.
On a jailhouse phone call, Ford swore the injuries were an accident.
“Honey,” Ford told Payne, “I’m telling you — I didn’t shake her.”
Prosecutors Beth Beninato and Amy Schuchman pointed to Skyler’s severe injuries. She now has brain damage, cerebral palsy and has suffered from seizures. Doctors say they won’t know the extent of damage to the child, now 9 months old, until she approaches developmental milestones.
Beyond his panic over Skyler’s condition, Beninato said, Ford showed another side during an interview with police. In that interview, Ford snapped and told the detective to “shut the (expletive) up.”
In another jailhouse phone call, he told Payne: “I’m fixing to go away for a long time.”