HELENA – A Helena man is on trial this week for assaulting a 4-month-old baby.
Opening statements were heard Monday afternoon in the case of Aaron J. Oliphant, charged with felony aggravated assault.
Prosecutors said Oliphant was the sole caregiver on June 8, 2016, when his 4-month-old son suffered 5 skull fractures and retinal bleeding in both eyes.
Deputy County Attorney Melissa Broch said the injuries were the result of incredible force.
Prosecutors say the baby was happy and normal when his mother left for work on the evening of the June 8, and was screaming uncontrollably and vomiting when she returned from her job four hours later.
Oliphant allegedly tried to talk the baby’s mother out of going to the emergency room as the child alternated between screaming and passing out.
At the urging of a pediatrician the next morning, the baby was taken to St. Peter’s emergency room on June 9.
Upon examination, doctors said they found the child suffering from non-accidental trauma, threatening the baby’s life.The child was flown to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City.
The injuries were documented by a CT scan and an MRI and confirmed by teams of doctors in Helena and Salt Lake City.
Oliphant told investigators, at the time, that maybe he’d bounced the child too hard while the baby was in a bouncy chair. He denied hurting the baby, saying he hoped the mother hadn’t hurt the baby.
Broch told the jury that Oliphant’s other children have been injured in the past, including one instance when Oliphant allegedly spanked one boy so badly that his buttocks bled.
Other children were found to have bruising on the face and arms that looked like hand prints.
Oliphant’s defense attorney J. Mayo Ashley, called the state’s case an “interesting story”.
Ashley said no tests showed the child had any bruising following his injuries, if he was injured that badly.
Ashley also told the jury the child had problems prior to the incident and while his client cared for the child for four hours a day, while the child’s mother worked evenings. He asked who cared for the child the rest of the day? A reference to the child’s mother.
Lewis and Clark County Attorney Leo Gallagher told MTN News that the child, now a year and half old, experiences daily seizures.
Gallagher said it’s too soon to tell if the injuries will cause any permanent developmental damage.
The case is expected to last the rest of this week.