Pocket-dialed message leads to child abuse arrest in Steamboat Springs

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— A father was arrested Tuesday in Steamboat Springs on suspicion of child abuse after a day care received a “disturbing” 4 1/2-minute long, pocket-dialed voice mail.

The Steamboat Springs Police Department was contacted Tuesday morning by Routt County Human Services to help investigate the voice mail recording, where the father could be heard yelling and using profanities toward his crying 4-year-old son, according to an affidavit filed in Routt County Court. During a portion of the recording, it also sounds as though the father was, or had been, physically abusing his son, the affidavit states.

What was most concerning to the Human Services social worker was the beginning of the recording when the father sounded out of breath, apologized to his son and stated “it is over now,” according to the affidavit.

The Steamboat Pilot & Today is not publishing the name of the father in order to protect the identity of the child. He was arrested on suspicion of Class 1 misdemeanor child abuse.

When police attempted to contact the father at home, a neighbor called 911 to report the father fled out the back window with his child. Police found them on a city bus.

The father told police he was “having a bad day.” After being told about the pocket-dialed message left with the day care, the father told police he spanked the boy because the boy grabbed a knife to cut a banana.

When the boy was examined by the social worker, she found two, 3-inch-long bruises, and the boy said his father spanked him with his hand and slipper, the affidavit states. Police then took the father into custody.

During court Wednesday, the father told Routt County Judge James Garrecht that he loved his son, and he did not understand why he was being arrested for spanking him.

“I caught him doing something that was very bad,” the father said. “I’m disciplining my son like a father should.”

The father’s bond was set at $750.

Reports of abuse

According to the Colorado Department of Human Services, there have been an average of 208 reports each of the past five years in Routt County concerning child abuse or neglect. In 2013, 152 assessments were completed, and in 49 cases there was evidence of abuse or neglect.

In a recent case, police think child abuse led to the death of a 3-year-old boy.

Meghan McKeon was arrested in Steamboat on March 27 and subsequently charged with two counts of felony child abuse resulting in death. Police think McKeon might have left her son home alone for four days.

Steamboat police Sgt. Rich Brown said child abuse arrests oftentimes are associated with other crimes, most commonly domestic violence and DUIs.

“A lot of times it’s related to situations where an intoxicated driver places a child in danger just by the fact of their impairment and having a kid in a car,” Brown said. “The same kind of situation is present when we have a domestic (violence) situation.”

Brown said when physical altercations occur when children are present, police treat it very seriously.

“When we have kids present, it increases the severity of those situations, and we’re seeing it,” he said.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland

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