Child abuse trial begins in case of Spokane baby who suffered bleeding on brain
Attorneys delivered differing accounts Tuesday about how a Spokane infant suffered bleeding on the brain in 2017 that will impair him for the rest of his life, including vision problems.
Attorneys delivered opening statements in trial for Dmitriy I. Diakonu, 32, who was charged with second-degree assault of a child. He stands accused of causing bleeding on the brain of his infant son, which prompted several medical officials to race to save the infant’s life.
Based on the diagnosis of one of the first doctors to examine the boy, “the bleeding in (the baby’s) eyes could only have been caused by a car collision or by violent shaking,” Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Amanda Fry said.
But defense attorney Jeffrey Compton told the jury that the baby suffered from what he called “chronic brain bleeds” that are common with babies who are born before they are full term.
“It’s a sad event when a child suffers an injury,” Compton said. “It’s even worse when someone is charged when they didn’t do it. (The baby) had a constellation of injuries caused by being born 10 weeks early.”
The case began about two years ago when the toddler was three months old. He weighed 9 pounds on July 14, 2017, when his mother, Alona S. Kutsevalova, left him in the care of Diakonu for just the minutes it took her to prepare a bottle of formula, according to court records.
The baby, who had been having difficulty with constipation, was crying that morning when Diakonu came inside to care for him. “As she was coming back into the living room, (the child’s) crying changed and got immediately worse,” court records state. The baby then stopped “breathing, (his) eyes rolled back into his head and his body became rigid.”
Kutsevalova and Diakonu rushed the baby to Holy Family Hospital in their own car and the mother tried frantically to revive the baby.
Registered nurse Jacinda Padayao was working in the Holy Family emergency room when the baby was rushed inside.
The baby was having trouble breathing and was not following the mother’s eyes, which can sometimes indicate pressure on the brain. That swelling can press down on optical nerves, causing vision problems, Padayao said.
Padayao spoke to Diakonu who said his baby son was screaming and that he had become frustrated at the baby’s crying. As the medical personnel tried to find out what was wrong with the baby, Diakonu began pacing around the room.
A CT scan confirmed the baby had bleeding on the brain and preparations were made to have him transferred to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, which has specialized pediatric physicians to deal with infant trauma, she said.
“I felt very uncomfortable with his stress level rising,” Padayao said. “I had the charge nurse call security to be on standby.”
As Padayao tried to weigh the infant, Diakonu slammed his fists down onto the scale.
“My gut was telling me that I was needing to call DSHS,” she said. “I’m a mandatory reporter. I thought I needed to get the ball rolling for the baby’s safety.”
Spokane Police arrived at Sacred Heart and tried to question Diakonu, who “was immediately hostile and began to video tape her and the sergeant on his cell phone, which they allowed, and we advised him of his rights as well as the fact that we were audio and visually recording the conversation.”
He denied hurting the baby, but once the baby’s eyes rolled back into his head, Diakonu “said that he shook (the baby) fairly hard at that time to revive him,” court records state. He “said that the shaking caused (the baby) to start breathing again.”
But Compton, in his opening statement, said he will call two medical experts as witnesses who will testify about how commonly bleeding on the brain is diagnosed with babies who are born early.
“They concluded that (the baby) was suffering from the chronic brain bleeding symptoms,” Compton said.
He noted that doctors found no evidence of any blunt-force trauma, the baby had no fractures or bruises or grab marks. The experts will testify “that shaking alone cannot cause these injuries,” Compton said. “The theory of our case is simple. Dmitriy Diakonu did not cause these injuries.”
The trial, before Superior Court Judge Annette Plese, is expected to continue into next week.