Warrant issued for child abuse suspect in Grand Junction | PostIndependent.com
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Warrant issued for child abuse suspect in Grand Junction

Paul ShockleyGrand Junction Correspondent

GRAND JUNCTION Police in Fort Collins have reopened a 2004 child abuse case involving a woman charged with felony child abuse in Mesa County, a prosecutor said Monday. Erin M. Despain, 24, of Grand Junction, failed to appear at a pretrial hearing Monday morning in District Judge Brian Flynns courtroom. The judge issued a new $125,000 warrant for Despains arrest. According to attorneys involved in the case, Despains no-show happened days after Despain was told the Fort Collins Police Department has reopened an investigation into abuse allegations involving her oldest daughter dating back to November 2004. Despain wasnt charged in a case that Chief Deputy District Attorney Tammy Eret said fell through the cracks. Shes looking at two felonies cases in two jurisdictions, and her children are in foster care. I think she has reason to flee, Eret told the judge, arguing for a new arrest warrant in the case. Despain had been free on a $60,000 bond. She pleaded not guilty Dec. 3, 2007, and was set for trial starting April 21 on five counts of felony child abuse related to injuries suffered by her 2-month-old daughter in May 2007. Despain told doctors the girl had fallen several feet from a chair and suffered broken ribs. The toddler was brought to St. Marys Hospitals emergency room May 12 last year by Despain and her husband, Dartanian Mitchell, 30. Investigators later concluded the toddler had several injuries, many of them pre-existing, including a skull fracture, multiple rib fractures and a leg fracture all ruled to be non-accidental, according to court records. Despain surrendered in July on a Mesa County Sheriffs arrest warrant.Fell through the cracks According to court records, Despain and Mitchell were both questioned after the couples oldest daughter, at the time 4 months, was treated at Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins for a skull fracture on Nov. 7, 2004. Despain allegedly told doctors shed tripped while carrying the child in a car seat. She said the car seat fell and hit concrete. An emergency room doctor said the injury couldnt have happened in the manner described by the parents. Doctors in Denver, however, disagreed. The toddler was flown to Childrens Hospital in Denver Nov. 9, where a child abuse protection team ruled the trauma could have happened as described by Despain and Mitchell, according to court records. On Nov. 17, a radiologist at Childrens Hospital found the toddler had a healing rib fracture, one to three weeks old. The fracture was missed when the X-rays were originally reviewed, court records state. At the time, (hospitals child abuse protection team) did not change their finding regarding the skull fracture and no criminal charges were pursued. Later that same month, doctors determined the rib fracture had to have been caused by blunt force, or squeezing, and not caused by the fall that caused the skull fracture. Neither the defendant or Mr. Mitchell was able to provide an explanation for the cause of the rib fracture to the child, the court records said. The same child in January 2005 turned up at Fort Collins Poudre Valley Hospital with a broken wrist. In a memo viewed by the Free Press on Monday, a Fort Collins police detective wrote on July 19, 2005, that the childs original abuse investigation would be reopened. Eret on Monday said nothing apparently happened. The investigator left (Fort Collins Police Department), and it fell through the cracks, Eret told the judge Monday. Rita Davis, Fort Collins police spokeswoman, said the detective in question was reassigned within the department for reasons unrelated to the investigation involving Despains child. The detective has since left the department, she said. Davis said she was unaware of the July 2005 memo. (The case) remained closed until January 2008 and reopened based on information we received from Mesa County, Davis said. Reach Paul Shockley at pshockley@gjfreepress.com


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