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DA seeking felony indictment of man charged in infant death

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GOUVERNEUR — A doctor who testified Monday in the preliminary hearing against the Gouverneur man accused of recklessly assaulting an infant who died said that it was non-accidental.

The fracture found at the back of seven-month-old Braylin W. Chambers’s head was the result of something “cataclysmic,” “non-accidental” and was caused by a “significant trauma,” E.J. Noble Medical Director and 29-year Pediatrician Dr. Donald C. Schuessler Jr., M.D. said.

Dr. Schuessler said the infant was admitted to the hospital and was unable to breathe on his own.

The baby was admitted to the emergency room early on the morning of July 16 after it was allegedly dropped on his head by Gary L. McKenzie II.

Mr. McKenzie, 22, of 154 Hailesboro St., Apt 26, is the fiancÚ of the infant’s mother, Savanna Goble.

According to police reports, Mr. McKenzie dropped the infant after being scared by the child’s getting sick, but according to Dr. Schuessler and state Trooper Patrick E. Loveland, a different story was painted.

In his testimony, Trooper Loveland said after the seven –month-old Braylin W. Chambers was transported by Gouverneur Rescue to E.J. Noble’s emergency room, he stayed behind to further question Mr. McKenzie.

When he told St. Lawrence County District Attorney Nicole M. Duve that Mr. McKenzie demonstrated how the child landed on the floor, she asked for his interpretation of the events that occurred up to the 911 call.

Trooper Loveland said Mr. McKenzie picked the child up from a bouncy chair where it was fussing.

“He held the child away from his body and the child got sick,” Trooper Loveland said. “He said he got scared, stepped back and tripped over the diaper bag.”

Trooper Loveland said that when Mr. McKenzie demonstrated his fall he retracted his arms and the baby against his chest and thrust them forward, throwing the child.

It was that kind of impact that Dr. Schuessler said caused a full cardio pulmonary arrest, stopping the heart and breathing of the infant.

Upon review of the autopsy reports, Dr. Schuessler said, along with the fractured skull there was bleeding on the infant’s brain, consistent with the damage he saw during the treatment baby Chambers received when he first arrived in the emergency room.

“It was a significant fracture with branching that could be the result of single or multiple traumas caused by significant force,” Dr. Schuessler said.

St. Lawrence County Public Defender Stephen D. Button asked the doctor if he was able to determine when the fractures took place, as the infant had bruising on the his head from what was reported as a fall three or four days earlier.

Dr. Schuessler told Mr. Button that he did not participate in the autopsy and that from the photos he received from the procedure, could not determine when exactly the fractures were made and if any healing had taken place.

The doctor did tell Mr. Button that there was coagulation of blood on the top of the infant’s brain, demonstrating that there might have been damage done prior to the incident.

But in the end, the doctor said this was no accident.

“There were multiple bruises about the forehead and eyes that were not accidental,” Dr. Schuessler said. “None of the injuries looked accidental and they were done with significant force.”

Additionally, Trooper Loveland said the placement of the diaper bag in the room was also something that he found odd.

“It was not in disarray and the contents were all inside,” Trooper Loveland said.

He said he found it strange that in a time of crisis Mr. McKenzie would stop and clean up when the child was on the floor injured.

“I would have never have thought to put all the contents back in the bag,” Trooper Loveland said. “In an emergency situation that is the furthest thing from your mind. The most important thing is living and breathing.”

But St. Lawrence County Public Defender Stephen D. Button said that the arguments made in the court didn’t prove recklessness, only that an accident occurred.

Mr. McKenzie has been charged with endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor, and reckless assault of a child, a felony.

Mr. Button argued that the accusatory instrument claims that Mr. McKenzie “did forcibly fling” the infant. According to Mr. Button, both the testimony Monday and Trooper Loveland’s supporting deposition did not support that explanation of events and he said the incident should be looked at by the court as an accident and not rule in favor of felony charges.

“The court compared this case to a driver backing out of a driveway and not looking behind them and running over a child,” Mr. Button said. “That driver would not be charged with recklessness. Sometimes accidents happen. I’m personally pained by it and my client is pained by it.”

Mr. Button requested the court release his client under probationary supervision as he said he believed that there was failure to find evidence of a felony.

But Gouverneur Town Judge Stanley H. Young Jr. disagreed and determined that there was enough reasonable cause to show that Mr. McKenzie was not just responsible for the death but was reckless.

Judge Young remanded Mr. McKenzie to St’ Lawrence County Jail on $50,000 cash or $100,000 bond.

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