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Report: Father’s Story Changed in Lowell Shaken-baby Case

December 7, 2018

LOWELL -- Pedro Santiago, the 27-year-old Lowell man accused of violently shaking his 3-month-old son, initially told police responding to a Friday night 911 call about the child having trouble breathing that he was merely bathing and feeding the boy when he started gasping for air, according to a police report.

Santiago had called 911 when the boy’s mother, Tanisha Pimentel, 24, returned home from work about 9:30 p.m., saw the boy’s condition and told Santiago to call 911 immediately.

At Lowell General Hospital, Santiago added to his initial story and told a detective that while he was bathing the boy, he reached for a half-full 9-ounce bottle of baby wash only to have it slip out of his hand and strike the boy in the left eye, according to a police report.

But when police spoke to doctors at Children’s Hospital in Boston, where the boy was transferred via MedFlight, they learned that the boy’s injuries were far more severe than anything that could be expected from what Santiago described, according to a police report.

“Physicians noted extensive retinal hemorrhaging in both eyes. The hemorrhages were too extensive to count and were observed at multiple layers of the eye,” Detective Joseph Borodawka wrote in a police report. “Physicians described this as a severe condition that would have taken a large amount of force to cause such hemorrhaging.

“They likened it to a severe motor vehicle crash or an 80-foot fall that would have caused rapid acceleration and deacceleration of the head,” Borodawka wrote. “Pedro’s account of the half-empty 9-ounce bottle falling on his head was not a reasonable explanation.”

Borodawka wrote that doctors reported the boy was sedated and on a breathing tube, and that his long-term prognosis cannot yet be determined. The boy, whose name is redacted from police reports, was in critical condition at Children’s, according to the report.

Armed with the information from doctors, Borodawka and a state trooper from the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office asked Santiago to sit down for a videotaped interview on Sunday, two days after the boy was hospitalized.

It was during that interview that Santiago admitted for the first time that he had also shaken the 3-month-old, according to a police report.

“Pedro explained that he failed to mention to me, the Department of Children and Families, and Tanisha that after giving (redacted) a bath, while in the bedroom with (redacted), he shook him for approximately five minutes to try to get a burp out and to rush him to sleep before (redacted) woke up,” Borodawka wrote in his report.

Santiago then used a bottle of soda to demonstrate how he shook the child, according to the police report.

“In watching Pedro demonstrate how he shook him, I noted that it was violent in nature, especially for a three-month old who cannot hold his head on his own,” Borodawka wrote.

Santiago also showed police how he “forcefully” put the boy down on a bed afterward, Borodawka wrote.

“Pedro indicated that he did so because others in the past have told him to put the baby down to recoup if he feels he is becoming angry,” Borodawka wrote.

Santiago told police he has been “extremely exhausted” since he has been waking up several times a night to care for the boy and getting little sleep, according to Borodawka’s report. He told Borodawka he has been so tired he nearly fell asleep while driving to work on several mornings, including Friday morning.

Santiago was not arrested following the interview, but on Tuesday he was taken into custody at his home on West Third Street on a single count of assault and battery on a child causing substantial bodily injury.

Santiago was arraigned Tuesday in Lowell District Court, where Judge Michael Brooks ordered him held on $500 cash bail, according to court records. Brooks ordered that if Santiago posted bail, he must have no contact with his children; stay away from their home and another home in Lowell; wear a GPS monitoring device; abuse no children; and comply with a DCF service plan, according to court records.

Santiago later posted bail, according to court records. He did not return a message seeking comment. His attorney, Melissa Devore, declined to comment when reached by phone. Pimentel did not return a message seeking comment.

Meghan Kelly, a spokeswoman for the District Attorney’s Office, said an update on the boy’s condition was not available Thursday night.

Santiago is scheduled to return to Lowell District Court for a pretrial hearing on Jan. 10.

Follow Robert Mills on Twitter @Robert_Mills

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