Father charged in baby son's death; Man was accused of abuse after infant was scalded last month at his home

THE BALTIMORE SUN

A North Baltimore man was charged yesterday with killing his 5-month-old son, who police said died a month after being bathed in scalding water.

Marquis Matthews, 22, of the 2600 block of Miles Ave. was charged with first-degree murder and was being held without bail at the Baltimore City Detention Center, pending his next court appearance Friday. He had been in custody on child abuse and related charges since Feb. 7, two days after the scalding incident.

The infant, Polaris Matthews, suffered second-degree burns on 25 percent to 30 percent of his body and had been on life-support at Johns Hopkins Hospital until he died March 6.

The state medical examiner's office ruled the death a homicide Thursday.

Polaris' mother, Kimberly Johnson, could not be reached for comment. Matthews' attorney, Sheldon Rubenstein, said his client told him "it was an accident. He didn't realize the water was that hot."

Police said Matthews bathed Polaris about 3: 30 p.m. Feb. 5 and noticed the child's skin peeling when he was drying him.

Police said he immediately called Johnson, his girlfriend and the child's mother, who came home from work and found that the child had blisters and burn marks.

The couple and Johnson's mother took the baby to University of Maryland Medical Center about 8 p.m. He was later transferred to Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Police said they went to the home and found that the temperature of the bathwater was between 146 and 150.

Court documents filed yesterday said Matthews told police that he filled the bathtub with hot water and then added cold water. "The defendant stated that he tested the water prior to placing the child in the water and that the water was not hot enough to burn the child," the documents said.

Neighbors of Matthews and Johnson near the Johns Hopkins University were shocked. Vandals attacked their rowhouse Thursday evening and scribbled "Baby Killer" in thick black marker on the oak-colored front door.

"He should have known the water was too hot to wash the baby with," said Debbie Cummings, who lives two doors away from Matthews and Johnson.

"He loved that baby," she said, staring at the vandalized door along with other neighbors. "He had [the child] all the time and carried it in a knapsack in front of him."

Donna Debarge, who lives next door to Matthews and Johnson and baby-sits neighborhood children, said she was shocked that something would happen to "that beautiful little baby."

Sue Fitzsimmons, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Social Services, said she had no information on the case and could not comment on the couple.

Pub Date: 3/13/99

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