Father says infant was OK

Sitter's boyfriend didn't cause girl's death, his lawyer says

`Happy and loving baby'

June 25, 1999|By Nancy A. Youssef | Nancy A. Youssef,SUN STAFF

Victoria Rose Dobbin's father said yesterday his "beautiful bug" was healthy when he left her with her baby sitter in the 9100 block of Blues Alley on June 2.

"She was just like the same old Tori," said John J. Dobbin, Jr., 21, of Laurel. "She was a very happy and loving baby."

Later that day, she was rushed from North Laurel to Children's National Medical Center in Washington. Doctors determined she suffered a subdural hematoma, a hemorrhaging between her skull and brain. She died 16 days later.

William P. English, 22 -- the sitter's boyfriend -- was arrested Wednesday at Whiskey Bottom Liquors, where he works. He was charged with attempted second-degree murder, second-degree assault and child abuse. Officials from the Howard County state's attorney office said they will seek an indictment for second-degree murder.

Howard County police believe the 8-month-old baby was injured "while falling on or off of a counter top" while in English's care, according to charging documents. An autopsy conducted by the District of Columbia's medical examiner's office ruled the death a homicide, concluding the baby died after being struck in the head by a blunt object.

But English told officials that the baby was sitting on the floor when she fell on her left side and hit her head on a toy. She then went into seizures, he said.

During a bail review hearing yesterday, his attorney, Jason Shapiro, told District Court Judge James N. Vaughan that English is innocent and that the state's case appeared "weak."

"There is nothing in the statement of charges that indicates this blunt force occurred in the short time [Victoria Dobbin] was in my client's custody," Shapiro said. "It was obviously bad luck, to say the least, that this baby went into seizures while in my client's care."

Police believe English's girlfriend, Marisa Siddell Hannum, 17, and his mother, Charlotte Lee Miller, 50, left English with the child while they went to Weis Markets in the 9200 block of All Saints Road.

The three live in a North Laurel apartment.

Dobbin said Hannum was Victoria's baby sitter for the past two months.

Victoria was crying as the two women were leaving, according to Miller.

She said yesterday she believes the infant was sick before they left for the grocery store.

About 10 minutes later, Victoria went into seizures, and English drove her to Weis to find Hannum and his mother, said Sgt. Karen Shinham, a county police spokeswoman.

English told officials that the baby looked "limp."

Victoria was unconscious and unresponsive when English found Miller and Hannum at the store, charging documents show.

"Tori, wake up, wake up," English said, according to police.

Miller performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on the baby, and a store employee called police.

The infant was rushed to the Washington hospital, where doctors said Victoria could not have sustained injuries the way English had described.

Dobbin said he spent the past 16 days with his only child at the hospital.

Her viewing will be held today at Fleck Funeral Home Inc. in Laurel.

Vaughan reduced English's bail from $250,000 to $75,000 yesterday, saying he believes English is not a flight risk. Shapiro said English's father mortgaged his house to post bail, and English was released from the Howard County Detention Center in Jessup yesterday afternoon. He has no criminal history.

Police have no immediate plans to charge Hannum. She is being represented by lawyer Gary W. Wiessner.

A preliminary hearing will be scheduled in the next 30 days.

Miller said she thinks her son is being wrongly accused.

"We know he didn't do this. He'll be found innocent," Miller said. "We cared for that baby like she was a part of our family."

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