Dead tot bruised, underfed, police say

When he died this week, 2-year-old Andrew Patrick Griffin weighed about 13 pounds, roughly the same as the typical 3-month-old. His body was covered with bruises and abrasions, and he appeared malnourished and dehydrated, according to investigators.

His parents, a Towson couple with four other children, have been arrested and charged with child abuse in connection with the toddler's death, Baltimore County police said yesterday, describing the case as one that bears the signs of protracted neglect.The family, who lives in the 300 block of Old Trail Road in the Rodgers Forge neighborhood, had not been investigated by county social workers previously, nor had there been prior reports of possible abuse or neglect, authorities said.

John J. Griffin is a 38-year-old computer system engineer and a graduate of Loyola High School and Loyola College, according to his lawyer. Susan Griffin is a 37-year-old stay-at-home mother.

They were charged with first-degree child abuse after emergency room doctors found Andrew's injuries suspicious and police found what they believe is blood on clothes, walls and the ceiling of the couple's bedroom.

At a bail review hearing yesterday afternoon, the couple sat side-by-side and appeared via a video feed from the Baltimore County Detention Center, where they were being held. John Griffin looked straight ahead; his wife covered her face with her hands at times and appeared to cry.

At the hearing, District Judge Robert J. Steinberg ruled that John Griffin's bail should remain at $1.5 million and Susan's Griffin's bail should be kept at $1 million. "There is ample probable cause for the charge of child abuse," the judge said.

The couple's two older children, 10 and 9 years old, are being cared for by John Griffin's mother, police said. Their younger children, 4 and 1, are in foster care, according to authorities.

John Griffin took Andrew, who would have turned 3 in February, to St. Joseph's Medical Center in Towson on Wednesday, police said.

The child was "cold to the touch and unresponsive," according to court documents. Doctors were unable to resuscitate the boy and pronounced him dead about 3 p.m., according to the documents.

The child had several bruises on his head and ears and around his eyes, and areas on his head appeared indented, court documents said. His nose and lips were "scabbed and discolored." Some of the child's injuries appeared recent, and others appeared to be in the process of healing, indicating that they were sustained over a period of time, according to the documents.

John Griffin told police that about 1 p.m. Wednesday, he checked on Andrew, who had been napping, and "didn't like what he saw," according to the documents. He said his wife attempted to perform CPR on the child for about 20 minutes but could not get him to breathe.

John Griffin told police he drove Andrew to the hospital, rather than call 911 for an ambulance, because they live close to St. Joseph's. Susan Griffin stayed home to watch the other children, according to the documents.

Police said that during a search of the Griffin home Wednesday night, they found what appeared to be blood inside the bassinet in the master bedroom where Andrew slept. There also appeared to be blood on clothing, the four walls and the ceiling, according to the court documents.

To explain the child's malnourished state, John Griffin told investigators that the child had suffered a flu-like illness in August or September, according to court documents.

He said that he and his wife didn't take the child to their pediatrician because the doctor had disallowed the family from making any appointments over a billing issue, the court papers say.

In the charging documents, police quote John Griffin as saying, "What did you want me to do ... pay $400 to have my child seen by a doctor and work out the details with the insurance company later?"

Susan Griffin told police that she and Andrew had fallen down the steps several months ago and that Andrew had suffered several seizures since then, according to the court papers. But she said Andrew had been to the doctor only once since he was born, according to charging documents.

A preliminary autopsy concluded that Andrew weighed about 13 pounds, which is the average weight of a 3-month-old baby, and that he was 28 inches long, the average height of an 8-month-old, according to police.

Pending the results of the investigation and autopsy, which could take weeks to complete, additional criminal charges could be filed, county police spokesman Bill Toohey said.

"This is far from over," he said.

The couple has a history of financial difficulties, according to court records. Federal court records show that John Griffin filed for protection from creditors under Chapter 7 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in 1999. Susan Griffin was on probation in Howard County for depositing forged checks worth nearly $12,000 in a credit union account in 2005, according to court documents.

Earlier this month, she was arrested at a Towson pharmacy and charged with passing two forged prescriptions for Vicodin, a narcotic painkiller, and Adderall, a stimulant, according to court documents.

She is scheduled to appear in District Court in Towson in February on those charges.

Susan Griffin has another son, who is older than 18, but he does not live in the Rodgers Forge home, police said.

The couple's children were to be interviewed by county social workers yesterday.

Yesterday, the family's end-of-group brick townhouse was decorated with holiday lights. A plastic slide sat in the front yard, and candy cane decorations lined the sidewalk.

Next-door neighbor Ted Kruse said he never had a reason to suspect anything was amiss. The Griffins had lived there about four years, he said. The younger children never came outside, but the older children often played outside, he said.

"The older kids seemed fine," Kruse said.

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