NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

November 6, 2013

Judge locks up convicted child abusers

LAWRENCE — When she was only 51/2 weeks old, Autumn Bureau suffered 22 fractures, including a bone in her arm broken in two, and a brain hemorrhage. The little girl also had fractured ribs.

Yesterday, the two people convicted of abusing her, Stephen Amos and Heather Dragotta, the child’s mother, were incarcerated by Superior Court Judge Richard Welch, who found them guilty Oct. 24 after a weeklong trial.

Amos was found guilty of multiple counts of assault and battery on a child while Dragotta was convicted of permitting injury to a child.

As for Autumn, she’s a “happy, healthy 31/2-year-old living with her dad,” according to Stephen O’Connell, director of communications for Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett.

Amos, 34, Dragotta’s live-in boyfriend at the time of Autumn’s injuries, June 3, 2010, was sentenced to one to three years at Massachusetts Correctional Institution — Cedar Junction. Welch gave him credit for the 13 days he has been behind bars since his conviction.

Dragotta, 33, will spend the next two months at Framingham State Prison.

Dragotta has maintained that her daughter’s bones were made brittle by rickets, a condition that results from deficiencies of vitamin D and copper. She even started a Facebook page to promote awareness of the disease.

Welch rejected Dragotta’s contention that brittle bones were at fault.

“I find that she has not accepted responsibility,” the judge said. When her attorney, Ronald Ranta, asked that she receive probation and no jail time, Welch said, “She was a mother who took no care of her child.”

He offered a completely different opinion of Amos, who told investigators he used a “bicycle technique” on the child to relieve gas, according to Amy Silverio, a state Department of Children and Families social worker who testified during the trial. This procedure involved rotating the child’s legs and pressing them against her abdomen.

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