ELYRIA — A man accused of shaking his baby girl and causing brain damage says a bum knee is to blame.
Jack McDougal, 22, of Elyria, says his knee joint often goes out, and that’s what caused him to fall while holding 9½-week-old Paige McDougal on Sept. 8, according to his attorney, Marilu Laubenthal.
“He feels strongly that he’s not guilty, that this was accidental,” Laubenthal said. “He says he fell a couple times, that he falls a lot.”
The baby was flown to MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland after her father called for help, thinking she was having a seizure, said Elyria Lt. Andy Eichenlaub.
McDougal told police the seizure started when he fell on a bed and the child bounced into his shoulder, Eichenlaub said. But Eichenlaub said hospital officials were suspicious about Paige’s injuries and how they happened in part because doctors found bleeding in her brain that could not be explained by the accidental fall.
Laubenthal said that from what she’s been told, Paige is in terrible shape with brain damage and that she may have lost her sight in one eye. Eichenlaub said surgeons also found that the baby also had older brain injuries that cast doubt on McDougal’s version of what happened.
Lorain County Coroner Paul Matus, who did not examine Paige, said some babies can survive minor bleeding in the layers of tissue between the skull and brain, but the trauma of the injury often leads to permanent damage.
McDougal has been indicted for felonious assault and two counts of endangering children in connection with Paige’s injuries. He is being held in the county jail on $320,000 bond.
Laubenthal said McDougal told her that in one other instance he stubbed his toe and fell with the baby, but that was the only other time the baby was injured while in his care.
“He gave me the impression that there was one other incident, but doctors think there were more,” she said.
Police have said they believe the baby was abused several times by McDougal.
Lorain County Children Services spokeswoman Patti-Jo Burtnett said there were no complaints about McDougal’s care for Paige prior to Sept. 8. There were no other children in McDougal’s Park Meadow Drive apartment at the time of the incident, she said.
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