Father arrested in baby death

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Mike DuPre'
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
— A Janesville father was arrested Monday evening because of what detectives think was negligence leading to the accidental death of his 14-month-old son Saturday.

Charles R. Rivers, 34, of 171 Linn St., was arrested on charges of neglecting a child resulting in death and obstructing.

His girlfriend, April S. Peabody, 26, same address, was arrested on a charge of obstructing.

Authorities found Israel Gordon, 14 months old, dead when they arrived at 171 Linn St. shortly before 9 p.m. Saturday.

The stories that detectives got from Rivers and Peabody were inconsistent and did not jibe with the evidence, Lt. Tim Hiers of the detective bureau said this morning.

And when Rivers and Peabody could have been taking the baby to the hospital, they took the child to Beloit so Rivers could buy heroin to support his habit, Hiers said.

Both suspects eventually admitted they made a heroin run to Beloit, Hiers said.

Peabody does not appear to use heroin, and no heroin, other drugs or paraphernalia were found in the apartment, Hiers said.

Rivers initially told investigators that Gordon suffered a minor bump on the head when he was bathing him Saturday morning, Hiers said.

Rivers said the baby acted fine and played normally through the day until he was found unresponsive shortly before the 911 call Saturday night, the detective added.

What actually happened, Hiers said, was that the child was standing on the edge of the bathtub while Rivers was bathing the baby late Saturday morning.

Rivers let go momentarily, and the child fell, hitting his forehead on the edge of the tub, Hiers said.

“He (Rivers) said initially the child played and acted normal, but that couldn’t have been the case with the evidence we found,” Hiers said. “Based on the initial autopsy results, the child would have either lost consciousness or his behavior would have changed.”

The child had suffered a serious brain injury, Hiers said, and “his body started to shut down after the injury.”

Evidence of bleeding in Gordon’s mouth was found, and he had a bruise on his forehead, Hiers said.

“The bottom line is that medical attention should have been sought,” he said.

Peabody’s obstructing charge resulted from stories she told to cover the day’s events, Hiers said.

She arrived home from work in mid-afternoon and thought Gordon was sleeping.

Peabody told investigators that the three went to Wal-Mart later in the afternoon, but that story was to cover the heroin run to Beloit, Hiers said.

A review of surveillance tapes showed Peabody had gone to the store alone, not with either Rivers or the baby, the detective said.

“She had covered his and the child’s whereabouts,” Hiers said, adding:

“At this point, there’s nothing to suggest it was anything more than an accident, but the investigation is ongoing.”

Gordon lived primarily in a foster home and stayed with Rivers on weekends, Hiers said.

The baby’s mother, Nicole, lives in a residential drug treatment center in Madison.

Rivers and the baby’s foster mother were “persons of interest” in a possible abuse case when discolorations were found on various parts of Gordon’s body in August, Hiers said.

But detectives received conflicting medical reports on what caused the discoloration, and the latest medical opinion was that a fungal infection caused what looked like bruises, Hiers said.

Rivers and Peabody told officers that they noticed the baby was unresponsive just before Peabody called 911, but police found the baby dead with rigor mortis already evident, Hiers said.

Peabody was released with a court date.

Rivers was in custody at the Rock County Jail this morning, awaiting his initial court appearance. The Rock County District Attorney’s Office was awaiting police reports so it could prepare a criminal complaint.

Child neglect resulting in death is a Class D felony with a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison and a fine of $100,000.

Last updated: 11:22 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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