Police: Father ‘threw’ infant

Posted Aug. 22, 2008, at 10:01 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — The young father accused of killing his 9-week-old daughter in the home he shared with the infant’s mother told police that he became “frustrated” and “threw her to the floor,” according to court records.

Robert E. Harford Jr., 24, made his first court appearance Friday in connection with the death of Ava Harford.

He appeared before District Judge Patricia Worth in Knox County Superior Court on a charge of domestic manslaughter.

Bail was set at $50,000 cash or $200,000 real estate at the request of Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea, prosecutor. Harford, of Rockland, was returned to Knox County Jail pending bail.

Court-appointed attorney William F. Pagnano of Rockland, who represented Harford, argued unsuccessfully for smaller bail amounts of $30,000 cash or $150,000 surety because his client, a lifelong resident of Knox County, had no previous record of violence.

According to the court affidavit, Maine State Police arrested Harford on Wednesday night in the death of Ava Harford. The girl was unresponsive when taken by ambulance from her home at 105 New County Road on Sunday evening and died Tuesday night at Maine Medical Center in Portland.

An autopsy Wednesday found that Ava died of multiple blunt-force head injuries.

Harford initially told police he dropped the child on her head after picking her up from a couch. His daughter was waist level when he dropped her on the carpeted floor, according to the affidavit.

He told police that he called his girlfriend and child’s mother, Kirby Gushee, 25, who told him to call 911.

The ambulance arrived and took Ava to Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport for evaluation. She was taken by Life-Flight helicopter to Maine Medical Center in Portland and was pronounced dead at 7:30 p.m. a day later at the hospital.

Detective Jeffrey Love of the Maine State Police attended Ava’s autopsy at 10 a.m. Wednesday. Chief medical examiner Dr. Margaret Greenwald, who conducted the autopsy, said Ava had died from blunt-force trauma to the head, Love reported.

At 4:30 Wednesday afternoon, Love and state police Detective Jason Richards questioned Harford at the Rockland Police Department.

“Harford told us that he became frustrated with his daughter and threw her to the floor,” Love said in the affidavit. No explanation for why Harford became frustrated was included in the affidavit.

Harford is a 2002 graduate of Camden Hills Regional High School, has an associate degree in science from a Florida college, and until recently had a job in the maintenance department at the Samoset Resort in Rockport, Pagnano said.

Zainea said Harford had been in Knox County Superior Court in October 2006 for operating a vehicle while under the influence of intoxicants. He was fined $500, jailed for 48 hours and had his license suspended 90 days.

He was convicted of operating after suspension in 2006 and for possessing marijuana.

Zainea set as a bail condition that Harford have no contact with Gushee or her immediate family.

Pagnano said if Harford is unable to make bail now, he may reapply to Justice Jeffrey Hjelm, who will be in charge of the trial.

Also, since Pagnano was appointed defense attorney for the day only, Harford will have to apply for a permanent court-appointed attorney, and if he qualifies, Pagnano could stay on the case, he said.

Harford’s case will go before the Knox County grand jury in September, and he is scheduled for a status conference at Knox County Superior Court at 8:30 a.m. Oct. 29.

Ava Harford’s death was the 25th homicide in Maine to date in 2008, the most homicides in the state since 1999 when there were 25 for the entire year, according to the Maine Department of Public Safety. Sixteen of this year’s homicides have been related to domestic violence.

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