Aberdeen man held on child abuse charges

An Aberdeen man remains jailed at the Harford County Detention Center after being charged in connection with severe injuries sustained last November by his daughter, who was 4 months old at the time.

Branden W. Felix, 30, of the first block of Norman Avenue, is charged with first- and second-degree child abuse, second-degree assault and reckless endangerment, according to Maryland District Court charging documents.

Felix was arrested on March 7, when initial bail was set at $500,000, according to court records. He appeared via closed circuit TV from the jail for a District Court bail hearing in Bel Air on Friday afternoon.

Citing the "serious nature" of the charges, District Judge Victor K. Butanis declined to reduce the amount of bail, which was set so high it amounts to "no bail," a public defender representing Felix said.

Butanis ruled over the tearful objections of Felix's mother and his wife, who told the judge she didn't believe her husband had hurt the child and noted the two of them have been together six years and have two other children.

If she believed her son had hurt the child, Felix's mother told the court, she wouldn't be there arguing for her son's release.

The two also told the judge Felix does not have a criminal record. Maryland online court records show only the charges on record against are those involving the current case; no prior convictions or arrests show up in Maryland.

They also told the judge Felix has nowhere else to go but home and should not be considered a flight risk.

Tracey Delp, District Court supervising attorney for the Harford County State's Attorney's Office, told Butanis she opposed setting bail because of the nature of the charges, which she said were investigated by the Harford County Child Advocacy Center, a multi-jurisdictional agency that prosecutes crimes against children.

Delp recited a litany of the girl's injuries, including "bruises, hemorrhages to the eyes" and also noted the girl had been "on life support" and had suffered "brain damage."

Delp said those injuries and other evidence of "healing of skeletal fractures" were inconsistent with claims the girl "fell off the couch."

According to charging documents, an Aberdeen Police Department officer was dispatched to Felix's home around 7 p.m. on the night of Nov. 16, 2012, after a complaint was received from a nurse at Union Hospital in Elkton, who had observed bruises on the victim, the injuries to her eyes and "some brain damage," the latter based upon a CT scan.

"The nature of the victim's injuries caused the victim to be transferred to University of Maryland Hospital...," the charging documents state. She was placed in the critical care unit at University Hospital, and the investigating officer was told by staff there the girl "was currently sustained by life support apparatus," according to the charging documents.

In follow-up interviews with both parents, the investigating officer was told the girl had fallen off the couch, according to the charging documents. A detective from the Havre de Grace Police Department, who was also involved in the investigation, went to the hospital, where he learned the victim had "swelling in her brain."

"Further, he was advised by the attending doctor that the injury to the victim is not consistent with a fall but, consistent with shaken baby syndrome," the charging documents continue.

In a follow-up interview, the victim's mother told investigators she was not home when the injuries occurred. The documents also state Felix told investigators in another interview that "he may have "squeezed [the victim] too tightly while rocking her in an attempt to get her to stop crying."

According to the court documents, "the victim's injuries were a result of trauma." The girl, who is approaching 7 months old, was eventually taken off life support, transferred to a pediatric hospital and was recovered enough to be placed into foster care on Jan. 24.

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