JAMES CITY—For the first six weeks of his life, Jared Patton behaved like a normal, healthy baby.
Then, on Nov. 21, 2006, his mother noticed unusual twitching in his arms and legs - signs of a brain injury that landed him in the hospital for five months and could now land his father in jail for as long as 10 years.
On Monday, Williamsburg-James City County Circuit Judge Samuel Powell convicted David Patton, 26, of felony child abuse and neglect for inflicting the brain injuries to Jared. Powell acquitted Patton of an aggravated malicious wounding charge, saying prosecutors failed to prove that he intended to hurt the child.
"These are difficult cases for the court because probably the most important witness is the victim, who is not here and able to testify," Powell said.
Powell said he believes Patton caused the injuries because the child was in his exclusive care immediately before the first symptoms.
Several doctors who treated Jared testified Monday that the bruises on his body and the swelling, bleeding and bruising on his brain indicated that the injuries occurred less than 72 hours before he was brought to Mary Immaculate Hospital in Newport News the morning of Nov. 21, 2006. After being examined in the emergency room, Jared was airlifted to Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center in Richmond.
The baby was staying with Patton in James City County the weekend before he was taken to the hospital.
Patton, who has no criminal record, pleaded not guilty to both charges and has maintained his innocence throughout the case. He and his attorney argued Monday that there were several people who cared for Jared in the days before he was taken to the hospital, and any one of them could have inflicted the injury.
"I know I didn't do it," he reiterated Monday. "My kids are my life."
Dr. Robin Foster, director of pediatric emergency services at VCU Medical Center, testified that tests ruled out all medical causes for the brain injuries, and they appeared to be inflicted by violent force. The force was such that the effects of the injuries would show almost immediately, she said.
Dr. Michelle Clayton, a forensic pediatrician at Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters, testified for the defense that she noticed cysts on Jared's brain that were unrelated to the bleeding or seizures, but could account for some of his developmental problems.
Jared celebrated his first birthday a few weeks ago. Because he breathes through a tube that bypasses his vocal cords, even his cries are silent, his mother testified. He eats through a feeding tube attached to his stomach. He can roll over and sit up, but not crawl or walk.
"The child was developing normally up until Nov. 20," said acting Commonwealth's Attorney Sandy Conyers. "He was interacting normally up until that point."