Child Abuse Homicide Charges Likely For Teen Babysitter in Utah

A 16 year old Utah teen accused of shaking a baby in his care could be facing child abuse homicide charges after the infant died following being taken off life support.

In his care

Photo by: Morgan

The teenager, who is unnamed due to his age was taking care of the 5 month old baby girl and her two year old brother at their home in West Valley City when the baby stopped breathing. The infant was rushed to the hospital where it was determined that she had been shaken by the teenage babysitter. The baby was taken off life support after it was determined her injuries were too severe. She then sadly passed away.

Child abuse homicide

Authorities said the boy was being held on child abuse charges pending a potential change to homicide if the baby ended up not making it. Now that she has died, the charged against the boy could be enhanced to child abuse homicide. Utah Code 76-5-208 states “Criminal homicide constitutes child abuse homicide if, under circumstances not amounting to aggravated murder . . . the actor causes the death of a person under 18 years of age and the death results from child abuse,
(a) if the child abuse is done recklessly. . . [it is a first degree felony];
(b) if the child abuse is done with criminal negligence . . .[it is a second degree felony]:
(c) if, under circumstances not amounting to the type of child abuse homicide described in Subsection [A], the child   abuse is done intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence . . . .[it is also a second degree         felony].”

Know your limits

According to the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome, “SBS/AHT [Shaken Baby Syndrome/Abusive Head Trauma] is the leading cause of physical child abuse deaths in the U.S.” Taking care of an infant or a small child can be very difficult, especially if the baby cries incessantly or behaves contrary to how the person caring for them would want them to. Most caretakers practice soothing techniques and other methods to bring happiness to both the child and the caretaker. Even then, sometimes the crying or unwanted behavior continues. Caretakers are encouraged to know their limits and take the appropriate time and space needed to ensure they can handle the situation with the young child safely and appropriately. Teens who may be dealing with surges and fluctuations of hormones known to cause irritability and even moments of rage should decide whether or not child care is something they should be participating in. Any teens facing charges for grave mistakes regarding children in their care should consult with a juvenile defense attorney immediately.

Knife Wielding Utah Teen Charged With Aggravated Assault after Defending Sibling

A knife wielding Eagle Mountain Utah teenager was charged with aggravated assault after defending his younger sibling from abuse.

Violence for violence

The 16 year old teen who has not been named due to his age was placed into a juvenile detention center after he stabbed his 18 year old brother five times with a knife. The younger teen was trying to intervene to defend his 14 year old sister from their older brother, Steven Johnston, after an argument between the girl and Johnston escalated. Reports state that Johnston began physically assaulting the 14 year old girl when the 16 year old brother came to her aid, using a knife to wound the 18 year old sibling and thereby ceasing the assault on the younger sister.

Charges for both brothers

18 year old Johnston was flown to the hospital to be treated for his wounds and upon his release, will face misdemeanor charges for assaulting his younger sister. Meanwhile, the 16 year old brother is facing felony aggravated assault for using a knife to defend his sister against their older sibling. According to Utah Code 76-5-103, “Aggravated assault in an actor’s conduct that is:
i. an attempt, with unlawful force or violence, to do bodily injury to another; ( . . . )
ii. a threat, accompanied by a show of immediate force or violence, to do bodily injury to another; or
iii. an act, committed with unlawful force or violence, that causes bodily injury to another or creates a substantial risk of bodily injury to another; and
that includes the use of:
i. a dangerous weapon ( . . . );
iii. other means or force likely to produce death or serious bodily injury.”

No criminal intent

More than likely, the teen did not have plans on assaulting his older brother with a knife that day. In the heat of the moment however, it may have been difficult for him to think of anything other than protecting his sister from harm. It is difficult to ask anyone, especially a minor, to think and act rationally in stressful situations. In hindsight, the teen may have been able to stop the abuse from the 18 year old brother without using a weapon. There is also the chance the abuse could have continued to escalate, further jeopardizing the safety of the little sister. The 16 year old Utah teen chose to ensure the safety of his sister, and may now face up to 15 years in prison. Any minors who are facing charges following a rash decision during a stressful situation or after defending another person from harm, contact a juvenile defense attorney to discuss the defense options related to the case.

Cruelty to Animals linked to Child Abuse

There have been several studies over the years linking cruelty to animals to abuse seen or experienced as a child.

4 month old puppy beaten to death

In mid-November, 19 year old Salt Lake City teen Mikah Johnson was charged with cruelty to animals and torture of a companion animal after he beat a 4 month old puppy to death. The Border Collie named “Moose” had internal bleeding, broken teeth, a torn liver, and several other injuries evident of being beaten.

Deeper issues than lack of anger management

Photo by: Noël Zia Lee
Photo by: Noël Zia Lee

How a 19 year old could harm an innocent animal is not entirely unknown. Studies done over the last 40 years are showing connections between children who have witnessed or been victims of abuse and cruelty to animals. Unfortunately, unless they receive the mental health services they need, the deep seated issues that could evolve from abuse don’t stop with cruelty to animals. According to Robert K. Ressler of the Federal Bureau of Investigations, “[those who commit murder as adults] very often start out by killing and torturing animals as kids.”

Commonality of serial killers

Other studies done over the years are linking children guilty of cruelty to animals as having higher chances of being violent offenders as adults. Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, the Boston Strangler, and numerous other serial killers had one disturbing childhood hobby in common: torturing and cruelty to animals. While their style of mass murder was very different from one another, they all started out as the disturbed kid who found it entertaining to kill the neighbor’s cat.

Juvenile Mental Health

When children and teenagers begin showing cruelty to animals it is important for their mental health to be evaluated and for them to receive the necessary counseling needed. This small step as a child can dramatically reduce the likelihood of violence as an adult. If they have made the grievous error of seriously harming or killing an animal, criminal charges and mandatory counseling are likely to ensue. To speak with someone about criminal charges related to cruelty to animals, contact a juvenile defense attorney.

Utah Teen Arrested in Alleged Aggravated Assault for Stabbing Her Father in the Kitchen

A 17-year-old Utah teen has been arrested and taken to detention while she’s being investigated for her role in an alleged aggravated assault incident involving her father.

Photo: Scott FeldsteinThe Backstory

Authorities are trying to piece together exactly what happened, but believe that the girl was involved in an altercation with her father during which time both behaved inappropriately. The father stated that the two were arguing and he threw the girl down when she tried to stab him with a kitchen implement.

His story is that the teen left the room and came back with a pocketknife which soon ended up in the father’s thigh. The girl then left the house, but police found her at some point. She had injuries that police seem to think showed she’d been grabbed repeatedly around the neck. The teen stated that when her father threw her, she hit her head.

Both parties to the incident were given medical treatment before being booked into their respective law enforcement facilities. The father is being investigated for child abuse.

Aggravated Assault or Self-Defense?

An interesting question arises from this situation: if one person grabs another person by the neck and throws them to the ground and the second person responds with force is it truly an instance of aggravated assault or rather self-defense? This is a question which a Utah juvenile defense attorney might pose in court.

Hopefully the young lady will receive appropriate legal counsel. It’s got to be tough when a family squabble turns violent, but maybe there’s more to this story than meets the eye.

If you have a child who’s in a legal mess, don’t wait to talk to a Utah juvenile defense attorney. Kids need legal counsel just as much as adults and you shouldn’t have to attempt to navigate the juvenile justice system on your own. Call an attorney today.