A Navy military police officer has been arrested and charged with first-degree assault and child abuse after he allegedly struck and critically injured his 4-month-old daughter because her crying was interfering with his watching the Jan. 2 Washington Redskins game, officials said yesterday.
The girl, who was not taken for medical treatment until the next day, suffered a head injury that resulted in a stroke and permanent brain damage, the Calvert County sheriff's office said.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Thomas J. Bennett, 27, of Lusby, was arrested Friday at the hospital bedside of the child, Kiara Lacey Bennett, and charged with assaulting the child, authorities said.
"The child suffered severe, life-threatening injuries," said Lt. Tommy Buckler, of the Calvert sheriff's office.
Bennett was also charged with four counts of second-degree assault and child abuse in connection with a Dec. 29 incident in which he allegedly struck his two other daughters, ages 8 and 2, during a family argument.
Bennett, who is being held in the Calvert County Detention Center in lieu of $100,000 bond, had been relieved of his regular police duties at Patuxent River Naval Air Station in July after a positive random drug test, according to John Romer, public affairs spokesman for the air station. A law enforcement source said Bennett had tested positive for amphetamines.
Romer said that a court-martial of Bennett has been delayed pending the outcome of the assault case. Bennett's attorney, Larry Burch, declined to comment.
Kiara's mother, Kelly Bennett, told police that her husband was "not good with babies," had a bad temper and "sometimes gets carried away when he disciplines the children," according to the arrest affidavit. Kelly Bennett told police that on Jan. 2, Bennett--who she said had been irritable all day--began raising the volume of the televised Dolphins-Redskins football game to drown out Kiara's crying. Later, when Kelly Bennett stepped out of the room, she heard Kiara give what she described as an "I'm hurt, I'm in pain" scream.
Thomas Bennett assured his wife that everything was fine, but Kiara began vomiting and Kelly Bennett later noticed a hard, round bump on her daughter's head. When Kelly Bennett said she wanted to take the girl to the hospital that evening, Thomas Bennett allegedly told her she was "overreacting." The couple decided to take Kiara to St. Mary's Hospital after she awoke the following morning looking "lethargic" and would not open her eyes, her mother said. She was later flown to Children's Hospital.
The children have been placed in the custody of their maternal grandmother, an Anne Arundel County resident, who had told investigators that she saw bruises--one of which was in the shape of a handprint--on the backs and buttocks of the other two girls.