NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

April 25, 2014

Father held in attack on baby in Danvers hotel

BY JULIE MANGANIS
STAFF WRITER

---- — DANVERS — A Dorchester man is being held without bail, charged with grabbing his 1-year-old daughter’s face so hard that he broke the skin and pinning her down under his legs. The incident occurred during a visit at the Danvers hotel where she and her homeless mother had been living, police said.

The incident, which was recorded by the baby’s mother on a cellphone, occurred on the morning of March 30, but Bernard Peeples Davis, 43, wasn’t found until last week.

During a hearing Wednesday in Salem District Court, Judge Michael Lauranzano concluded that there are no conditions that could ensure the safety of the child and ordered Davis held without bail until trial on charges of assault and battery on a child causing injury.

Police were called to the Extended Stay America hotel on Route 1 on the afternoon of March 30 by the child’s mother, 33. She called police after Davis left.

The woman was living in the hotel with her two children by Davis, the 1-year-old girl and a 2-year-old boy.

Davis, who visited every other weekend, had been irritated with the baby, who was teething and, because of that, fussier than usual, according to a police report.

“A switch flips with him,” the baby’s mother told police.

That morning, she told police, Davis repeatedly yelled, “Shut your mouth” at the child, who was seated on his lap, crying loudly.

As he yelled at her, he held his hand against her face and head, which caused the baby to continue crying loudly. Later, the girl’s mother saw bruises and puncture marks from fingernails on her face, as well as bruising that stretched from her shoulder to her chest.

At one point, the woman told police, Davis put the baby on the floor, then put his legs on top of her.

Police noted redness on the side of the baby’s face.

The Department of Children and Families was notified and took both children and their mother to Salem Hospital for evaluation.

Davis, who was arrested on a warrant last Tuesday, has a five-page criminal record that includes past incidents of assault.

But in a letter submitted to the court by his attorney, Davis’ therapist, Jane Brodie, called the incident “the one exception to a crime-free, four-year period.”

Defense attorney Ed Sargent argued against detention for Davis. He submitted the letter in support of that request.

The letter, from a therapist at Whittier Street Health Center in Roxbury, said Davis is working on goals that include having parts of his criminal record sealed to improve his chances of getting housing and “steps toward employment.”

Davis, who has three children, including the two children living in Danvers, has been getting therapy for anxiety and depression, the therapist wrote. He also reported feeling “excluded” from the children during his biweekly visits because they are more attached to their mother.

The therapist said she believed “that he was not totally cognizant of what to expect from a 1-year-old and that he was expecting more self-control from her than she could deliver at her age.” Brodie said in her letter that she has recommended that he take part in the Fatherhood Nurturing Program, “which helps men of color become better parents.”

That program will have to wait, however. Davis will remain in custody at Middleton Jail pending trial, the judge ordered.

A pretrial hearing has been scheduled for May 21.