Mother of baby didn't want dad to see boy
Nicole Gordon, who is living in a residential drug treatment center in Madison, said she told officials that her son, Israel Gordon, should not be placed with his father, Charles R. Rivers, because of his addictions.
“I did not feel it was a safe place for my son,” she said.
Rivers is charged with child neglect resulting in death and obstructing. He made his initial court appearance Wednesday afternoon. A cash bond of $5,500 was set, and the hearing was adjourned until Tuesday.
Israel Gordon, 14 months old, was in foster care and stayed with his father on weekends.
The Rock County Human Services Department took the baby into protective custody and placed him in foster care two days after he was born Oct. 17, 2006, because his mother was incarcerated, Jodi Timmerman, assistant county corporation counsel, said in a brief written statement to the Gazette.
“Israel was not placed in foster care as the result of any allegations of abuse or neglect involving his father,” Timmerman said.
In February, a judge ruled that Israel Gordon needed protection, and the county human services department complied with that order, Timmerman said.
“The department facilitated visitation with the parents, as is required by law, following observed interactions with the child and observed parental conduct during visitation,” Timmerman wrote.
The human services department is working with Janesville police in the continuing investigation, she added.
Asked for a response to Nicole Gordon’s criticism of the human services department’s decision, Timmerman said she could not comment further because of the continuing investigation.
Israel Gordon’s injury apparently occurred late Saturday morning, and neither Rivers nor his girlfriend, April S. Peabody, 26, called 911 for emergency medical treatment until almost 9 p.m.
Rigor mortis was evident when an emergency medical technician tried to treat the toddler, and the technician thought the child already was dead, according to the criminal complaint.
In the late afternoon or early evening, Rivers and Peabody took Israel Gordon and a daughter of Peabody’s along with them as they went to Beloit to buy heroin or some other drug to feed Rivers’ habit, the criminal complaint charges.
The complaint also says Rivers told detectives different stories about what happened to his son.
At first, he said he had a hold of the boy as he stood in a bathtub to be washed and that his son slipped and hit the back of his head on the tub or wall. Rivers said he didn’t think the injury was serious and there was no bump on the boy’s head, according to the complaint.
But after repeated questioning by Janesville detectives, Rivers changed his story. He said the baby was standing on the side of the tub and that he let go of him to reach for something.
The baby slipped and “went face first into the corner of the tub, striking it very hard,” according to the complaint.
Rivers said the baby cried very hard for five or six minutes and started to act like someone who was trying to avoid losing consciousness, according to the complaint.
The pathologist who performed the autopsy on Israel Gordon said wounds on the baby’s mouth indicated at least one acute facial impact. The pathologist also said that “he felt it would have been readily apparent to any attentive childcare-giver that the child was badly injured and in severe distress,” according to the complaint.