Woman found guilty of aggravated assault on 9-month-old son

Posted March 20, 2012, at 2:16 p.m.
Last modified March 20, 2012, at 7:31 p.m.
Lynn Crossman
Penobscot County Jail
Lynn Crossman
Defense attorney Stephen Smith speaks with reporters on Tuesday, March 20, 2012, after his client, Lynn Crossman, 24, of Brewer was convicted of aggravated assault for striking her 9-month-old son, breaking his leg in November 2010. Smith said his client plans to appeal the conviction.
Defense attorney Stephen Smith speaks with reporters on Tuesday, March 20, 2012, after his client, Lynn Crossman, 24, of Brewer was convicted of aggravated assault for striking her 9-month-old son, breaking his leg in November 2010. Smith said his client plans to appeal the conviction.

BANGOR, Maine — A jury late Tuesday afternoon found a former Orono woman guilty of aggravated assault for hitting her 9-month-old son on the leg and breaking it in November 2010.

Earlier in the day, the defendant, Lynn Crossman, 24, who now lives in Brewer, testified that she “smacked” her son on the leg, but not in the area that was broken. She also said she doesn’t recall talking to doctors at the hospital or giving a confession to the investigating detective.

Crossman said she remembers speaking with former Orono police Detective Andrew Whitehouse — who told the jury on Monday that she admitted sheassaulted her child — but not the specific questions he asked.

“I can’t recall [what Whitehouse asked], but I remember him asking a couple of questions,” the mother of two said.

The jury at the Penobscot Judicial Center began its deliberations early Tuesday afternoon after hearing closing arguments from the lawyers.

The baby was taken to the emergency room at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor on Nov. 6, 2010, with a broken left femur and bruising, including hand prints that are a “classic injury” in child abuse cases, Dr. Kathryn Ruthledge testified Monday.

Ruthledge said Monday that she interviewed Crossman while others were in the hospital room, but the mother testified she had spoken with no doctors.

When Whitehouse interviewed Crossman, which took place at EMMC, social worker Catherine Dawson also was in the room and testified Monday that she heard the defendant confess to striking the child.

“She said she was holding the baby [and] he was crying for no reason,” the social worker said. “She was angry and she hit him. She indicated she hit him with the palm of her hand on his leg.”

Crossman also physically demonstrated for the detective and Dawson the downward striking motion she used, both Whitehouse and Dawson testified.

Crossman testified Tuesday that she hit her 9-month-old son after he kicked his brother while lying on a bed on the day before he was taken to the hospital for the broken leg.

“I smacked him on the leg and said, ‘No. We don’t kick,’” she testified.

She also said she did not hit him where the break was located. She said she first noticed swelling on his leg the day before he was taken by ambulance to the hospital but was able to change his diapers without his making a fuss.

Bruising on the boy’s back left by the hand of an adult, the X-ray of his broken left femur and hospital records led Dr. Lawrence Ricci of Portland — considered one of the state’s foremost medical experts on child abuse — to conclude the infant had been abused.

The doctor testified Tuesday morning.

“What is important is the inflicted [injury] on the back,” Ricci said of the child’s bruising, pointing to a photo used as part of the state’s evidence.

The “significant” break of the femur “shows what is called a buckle fracture, or bend, just above the knee,” the doctor said. “The bone is bent or buckled, requiring significant bending force.”

The baby’s mother initially said he had rolled off a bed two days earlier, which was not consistent with his injuries, said Ruthledge, an EMMC pediatric hospitalist who is called in whenever a child abuse case is suspected for children under the age of 21 months.

“Swelling would mean more acute — more recent” injury, Ricci said, adding that when the baby started crying in pain was near to “when the fracture occurred.”

Crossman changed her story when confronted by Whitehouse, the detective and Dawson said.

In addition to police, a representative from the Department of Health and Human Services was called and the baby initially was placed in the agency’s custody when Crossman was charged, Orono police Capt. Josh Ewing said at the time of her arrest.

Defense Attorney Stephen Smith asked that all references to the ongoing DHHS case not be admitted into evidence at the trial. The trial judge, Superior Court Justice John Nivison, agreed.

Crossman’s two children, the baby, who is now just over 2 years of age, and his older brother, who is around 3½ years old, went through foster care and are now living with a cousin and a friend, Eric Winslow, the children’s father said outside the courtroom.

“They’re both adopted,” he said.

“It’s been hard,” Crossman said of losing custody of her children. “We still get pictures and they’re on Facebook.”

Crossman said her children are loved in their new homes and she does not plan to fight their adoptions.

“Sometimes you have to sacrifice for your kids,” Winslow said.

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