Number of child abuse deaths an aberration

June 20, 2000|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

When paramedics arrived at a Reisterstown home in October, they found an infant whose death placed her among a record-setting group of victims in Baltimore County: babies and toddlers who police say were killed.

Sinaii Giddens, age 7 weeks, was one of five children under age 4 who police say were killed last year, a record that goes back at least 10 years and is a sharp increase from the one or two such homicides reported each year since 1990.

Police and child abuse experts say the number is an aberration and not a trend.

"We felt that it was remarkable," said Maureen Robinson, a spokeswoman for Baltimore County Department of Social Services.

Robinson said that since 1994, the number of child abuse complaints investigated in Baltimore County each year has held steady at about 2,800.

Nationally, about 900 children die each year from abuse at the hands of adults, with parents and other caregivers responsible for about 85 percent of the deaths, according to an August 1999 study by researchers at the University of North Carolina.

In Baltimore County, child abuse experts and prosecutors agree that the parent or caregiver is often responsible for a young child's killing. But they see few other patterns among the five cases prosecuted this year - other than the brutality of the slayings.

Sinaii was beaten so severely that a physician testified that her head and back injuries were like those seen in the autopsies of many car accident victims.

Last week, a Baltimore County jury convicted the baby's father, Orlandus Giddens Sr., of second-degree murder and child abuse.

A different case, involving a 4-month-old victim from Owings Mills, is set for trial tomorrow.

Cox won a conviction Thursday after a three-day trial for Giddens, 28.

Giddens, an art teacher at the private Strawbridge School in Randallstown, initially told police that his daughter was injured when she fell off a couch.

He was convicted after Dr. Joseph Paul Pestaner, an assistant state medical examiner, testified that given the force of the blows, there was "no way" the injuries were from a fall from a couch.

"We see these kinds of injuries in automobile accidents," Pestaner told jurors.

The case of Giddens, who is to be sentenced Aug. 29, is considered unusual because the defendant was a college-educated professional who worked in a field that places a priority on patience with children.

Tom Curcio, a spokesman for Strawbridge School, said nothing indicated problems when the school hired Giddens on Aug. 23.

Tomorrow, Thue Thi Xuan, 28, of Owings Mills is scheduled to be tried on first-degree murder and child abuse charges in the death July 7 of 4-month-old Kimdang Thi Le. The baby died of a fractured skull after a blow to the head and a severe shaking, prosecutors said.

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