BURLINGTON -- In what has become a too familiar sequence of events, prosecutors Friday morning arraigned a Shelburne man they say killed his girlfriend's 2-year-old son.
This marks the third child homicide since February in Vermont, and the Department for Children and Families faces criticism that it does not effectively prevent such situations before they become deadly.
Joshua M. Blow, 26, pleaded not guilty to one count of second-degree murder in the death of Aiden Haskins, who turned 2 on Feb. 15. He is also ordered not to contact Ashley Stewart, Aiden's mother.
DCF Friday confirmed it had an open case with Aiden's mother when Aiden was born but the child was never in DCF custody and DCF had not been involved with the family for the past 22 months. DCF did not give the reason for the initial case.
Aiden died as a result of blunt force trauma to the head, Chittenden County head prosecutor T.J. Donovan told reporters Friday after Blow's arraignment.
Aiden's skull was fractured and three vertebrae were broken, according to police. He also appeared to have had old injuries.
Blow admitted he was responsible for Aiden's death and was the only person at home with him Tuesday morning when he died but told police it was an accident. Doctors, however, told police Blow's five conflicting accounts of how Aiden died don't match his injuries.
"This was not an accident, this was intentional and we've charged him with murder," Donovan said.
Aiden's death comes at the end of a week during which DCF officials assured state lawmakers they are reforming practices and adding more staff.
DCF plans to hire 10 new social workers and convert seven temporary workers to full time as part of a larger plan to improve child protection services.
DCF Commissioner Dave Yacovone, however, told lawmakers more staff is just a "tourniquet" for the problems at DCF. Preventing child abuse and neglect in the first place is the long-term solution, he said.
"The common thread between these three tragic cases is substance abuse. It feels to me we are in the middle of a substance abuse epidemic," Yacovone wrote in an email.
Blow, who had been with Haskins six months, has a history with drugs and two minor charges that were dismissed, court records show.
Stewart has no criminal record in Chittenden County Superior Court but was involved in three past family court cases, including one seeking child support from Aiden's father, Noah Haskins.
Aiden was pronounced dead four hours after police first responded to a 911 call after a CT scan and several hours in a pediatric intensive care unit where he received "a large dose of drugs."
His injuries were: multiple skull fractures, compression fractures of three vertebrae, kidney laceration, bruising on his left shoulder, under his left jaw and older bruising over the right eye, according to the affidavit.