Was baby's death murder or accident?

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Mike DuPre'
Thursday, January 24, 2008
— Police are investigating whether the Dec. 8 death of a Janesville baby was murder, according to court documents.

Investigators earlier this month executed a search warrant so a forensic pathologist could re-enact the reported bathtub fall that Charles R. Rivers says resulted in the death of his year old son, Israel Gordon.

Search-warrant affidavits must cite a crime that police are investigating. In this case, the crime cited is “first-degree intentional homicide.”

Rivers, 34, and his girlfriend, April S. Peabody, 26, both of 171 Linn St., Janesville, were charged Dec. 12 with obstructing and child neglect resulting in death.

At the time, Lt. Tim Hiers, head of the Janesville police detective bureau, said:

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

The latest wrinkle in the ongoing investigation was the re-enactment, which happened in early January, according to court documents related to a search warrant.

Dr. Robert Corliss, the forensic pathologist, “questioned whether this accident could have caused the fatal injuries. Dr. Barbara Knox, a pediatric specialist in child injuries and child abuse, stated that the force required for such an injury could not be caused in a simple fall in a household bathtub,” according to the affidavit filed to get the search warrant.

Both doctors thought a simulation of the reported accident using a life-size replica of the child would help them come to a more definite conclusion as to the manner of Gordon’s death, according to the affidavit.

The doctors have not yet submitted their reports to police, and Hiers was unsure Wednesday when that would happen.

Hiers declined further comment on the investigation.

Bleeding to the brain caused by “blunt force trauma” caused Gordon’s death, according to autopsy results cited in the affidavit.

In addition, bruising and trauma were found in the toddler’s mouth as well as hemorrhaging in his eyes.

The stories that detectives got from Rivers and Peabody initially were inconsistent and did not jibe with the evidence, Hiers said in December.

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

The baby acted fine and played normally through the day until he was found unresponsive that night, Rivers first told police.

What actually happened, Rivers eventually said, was that the baby was standing on the tub’s edge as Rivers bathed him.

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

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 drug run to Beloit, Hiers said in December.

Rivers is in the Rock County Jail in lieu of $5,500 cash bond. He was due back in court this morning for a bond hearing.

Peabody has a preliminary hearing scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 29. She is free on a signature bond.

Last updated: 1:03 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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