Westminster man accused of child sex abuse

Police say he raped, burned girlfriend’s toddler

child released from hospital

April 14, 2010|By Nick Madigan, The Baltimore Sun

A Westminster man is accused of raping, beating and burning the 21-month-old daughter of his girlfriend while the mother slept nearby, according to charging documents filed in Carroll County.

Ryan Chad Gifford, 23, was arrested Sunday and charged with first- and second-degree assault and first- and second-degree child abuse after the girl's mother took her to a hospital for treatment of burns, a swollen face and extensive abrasions.

Gifford was being held at the Caroll County Detention Center in lieu of $500,000 bond after a bail review hearing Monday. If found guilty of the charges, he could face up to 75 years in prison.

The child was released Wednesday after treatment in the pediatric intensive-care unit at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, a spokeswoman there said.

Sheriff's deputies said Gifford and his 19-year-old girlfriend, Sara Michele Yelton, had bought some alcohol Saturday evening and consumed it in his home in the 500 block of Yellow Lily Court, where the girl and her mother were spending the night.

After drinking a half-gallon of white wine, Gifford appears to have attacked the girl while the mother was sleeping, according to a deputy's report.

On Sunday morning, Yelton discovered that her daughter had been hurt and took her to Carroll Hospital Center in Westminster. The girl was transferred to Hopkins because of the severity of her injuries, police said.

Police who went to the Westminster hospital to look into a report of child abuse secured a warrant to search Gifford's home. There they found a bloody T-shirt belonging to Gifford that had some of the child's blond hair attached, accord to the report.

"Blood was found on his bed, baby pack-and-play, baby's socks, and toilet seat," Cpl. William Burdt wrote in the report. "I told Gifford what we had found in his room and he stated, ‘Must have been her blood — I don't remember anything.' "

The girl's mother told police that she awoke at 4 a.m. and saw that the baby was not in bed. Yelton said she went to the bathroom door and found it locked. She could hear the shower and "unusual heavy breathing from her baby," Burdt wrote in his report. "She begins to panic and screams and bangs on the door. After a while, Mr. Gifford answers the door. She advised that they were both naked and the baby was wet. She observed that the baby's lips had blood and that there was blood on her ears."

Yelton also noticed that there was a bruise on the girl's forehead "which wasn't there when she put her to bed," the corporal wrote. "She asked him what he was doing with her, and he advised that he had noticed that she had blood on her ears, so he gave her a shower. He also told her that she was fussy, and that she had fallen."

The woman told police she dried the girl, dressed her, put her to bed and went back to sleep. Yelton said she checked on the child about 8 a.m. and returned to bed. When she checked her again at 11 a.m., she noticed the baby's face was swollen. It was then that she took her to the hospital.

Once there, doctors discovered "multiple fresh injuries," the report said, including a swollen, cut upper lip, bruising on both cheeks, "random bruises and abrasions throughout her body," and marks on her chest and buttocks. Her right foot and left calf had been burned, and the big toe on her left foot had a "crush injury." In addition, she showed evidence of having been both raped and sodomized, the report said.

The sheriff's deputy wrote that neither Gifford nor Yelton could explain the injuries.

Since November, the girl has spent weekdays at the Carroll Child Care Center in Westminster. She was in good condition when her mother picked her up Friday, according to Fred K. Teeter Jr., who runs the center.

"She's a little waiflike thing, a pretty little girl," Teeter said Tuesday. "This is just horrifying. Anyone who has kids can certainly get a visceral reaction applying this case to their children."

Teeter said the child's maternal grandmother was the "key contact" between the day care center and the family. The toddler's father, Charles Stuart, although separated from her mother, sometimes dropped her off or picked her up. Teeter said the center's staff knew nothing about Gifford.

"No one seems to know who he is — he may be a recent factor in the mother's life," said Teeter. Gifford was not on the center's list of people permitted to pick up the girl at the end of each day, Teeter said.

Deputy Carroll County State's Attorney David P. Daggett said Tuesday that Gifford went to Carroll Hospital Center with the child and her mother Sunday and was later taken to sheriff's headquarters, where he was questioned and arrested.

A check of court records shows that in July 2005, a Carroll County District Court judge ordered Gifford to stay away from Charles Stuart's sister, Laurie K. Stuart, after she had requested a protective order. The records show also that Gifford was arrested at least a half-dozen times for alcohol and drug offenses in Carroll and Baltimore counties.


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