Tuesday June 25, 2013

KEITH WHITCOMB JR.

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- Police have charged a Bennington man with failing to provide proper care for his 11-year-old son, who is deaf and blind from cerebral palsy.

Ralph Brown, 44, pleaded not guilty Monday to aggravated domestic assault, and cruelty to a person in custody of another. He was released on conditions he not have contact with the child in question and not care for any children under 18.

According to an affidavit by Bennington Police Detective Anthony Silvestro, on April 19 he was informed of a case brought before the Department of Children and Families regarding an 11-year-old child who doctors at Dartmouth-Hitchock Medical Center in New Hampshire suspected had suffered medical neglect because he was dehydrated, has poor oral health, and had developed sores on his legs and lower back.

Silvestro wrote that Brown is the child’s father and shares custody of him with the mother, Stacy Brown. Normally the child stays with her, but because her vehicle had broken down, the child was staying with Ralph Brown from April 8 to April 17. According to Silvestro, the child uses a wheelchair, is fed through a gastric feeding tube, and has developmental delays.

Brown spoke to police on April 19 and told them the child had not been feeling well between April 11 or 12, and possibly a few days before. He said on April 12 the child went to school and had a slight cough. He told police he was contacted by a nurse at the school who informed him of the cough but did not think it severe enough for the child to go home. Brown said he was later called by the child’s mother, who told him the child needed to be picked up from school because the nurse had called her and said the child had a high fever and other problems.

According to the affidavit, Brown told police he had contacted the hospital about the cough before and was told to give the child treatments for it, but if it did not stop to call the child’s doctor or take him to the emergency room. Brown said when he called 911 on April 17 it was because the treatments did not appear to be working.

Silvestro wrote that he asked Brown if he recalled the nurse telling him on April 12 that the child’s cough sounded rattling and congested, and he was running a fever. Brown said he did, which contradicted his initial statement. Silvestro wrote that Brown also claimed not to know signs of dehydration, however Stacy Brown told police both of them had been taught how to spot that problem at Albany Medical Center and Dartmouth-Hitchcock.

According to Silvestro, he asked Ralph Brown that given the increasing number of health problems the child was exhibiting after April 12 if he should not have contacted a doctor. "Yes I should have and am sorry I did not," said Brown, according to the affidavit.

Stacy Brown said that between April 12 and 17, Ralph Brown did not tell her the child was having problems but did request she bring some food supplies to him, which she did but did not go inside the house to see the child.

Silvestro wrote that he spoke to the school nurse and was told by her that she told Ralph Brown the child needed to see a doctor or would end up in the emergency room that weekend. He wrote that he also spoke to Stacy Brown’s sister, who claimed Ralph Brown had been telling Stacy Brown that she needed to take the child to a doctor. Ralph Brown’s sister, whose house Ralph Brown was staying in, said she does not care for the child and did not notice significant health issues.

Silvestro said he obtained reports from staff at Dartmouth-Hitchcock that said they suspected the child had been neglected over a period of time.

Contact Keith Whitcomb at kwhitcomb@benningtonbanner.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.