BANGOR, Maine — The local teenager who stands accused of taking the life of his 3-month-old son in November was quivering when he entered a not-guilty plea in court Thursday afternoon.
Dustin Brown, 18, of Bangor is charged with manslaughter in the Nov. 25 death of his son, Xander C. Brown, who died from “traumatic head injuries” and “inflicted trauma,” according to Bangor police Lt. Tim Reid, who heads the Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Division.
“Dustin told [the baby’s mother] that he had been feeding Xander and when he went to burp him, Xander’s head struck Dustin’s chin. Dustin said that he jerked Xander when this happened,” a police affidavit said. “Dustin told her that Xander went limp after he jerked him. Dustin began crying after telling her this.”
The baby, who was born premature, had no other signs of injury. Brown told investigators that “he was feeding Xander his bottle when he just went limp while eating and was unresponsive,” Bangor police Detective Brent Beaulieu said in the affidavit. “Dustin denied witnessing or having knowledge of any traumatic injury to Xander.”
The mother of the child and his grandmother, who were both in the house while Brown was feeding the baby, said they heard a commotion or “thud sound” just before Brown left the bedroom with the unresponsive baby, according to the affidavit.
A family member called 911 at 4:07 p.m. on Nov. 25 to report that the baby wasn’t breathing. When Bangor police and ambulance personnel arrived at 94 Thatcher St., they immediately took Xander Brown to Eastern Maine Medical Center, where he died at 5:40 p.m.
Brown is being held on $50,000 cash or $100,000 surety bail, said Maine Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson, who is prosecuting the case.
Brown’s father, Ronald Brown, and a cousin were in the courtroom at the Penobscot Judicial Center during the brief arraignment Thursday. Both said they were heartbroken over the baby’s death and Brown’s arrest.
“He would never hurt that baby,” his father said before the hearing. “He loved him more than anything.”
The baby, nicknamed “Xanderbear,” was born to Brown and Alania Cain on Aug. 22, according to his obituary, which ran in the Bangor Daily News on Nov. 28.
If Brown is released on bail, he is barred from contacting Cain or her mother, Janice Reardon, and from possessing firearms, Benson said.
Justice William Anderson scheduled a dispositional conference for early May and said a bail hearing would be held before April if requested by defense attorney Marvin Glazier.
Brown, who was indicted by the Penobscot County grand jury Wednesday and arrested shortly afterward, is being held at the Penobscot County Jail.
Manslaughter, a Class A crime, carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.
The Bangor teenager was the second Maine man charged with taking the life of his infant child in 2012.
Gordon Collins-Faunce, 23, of Arundel was charged with murder and manslaughter in the fatal beating of his 10-month-old son, Ethan Henderson, on May 5, 2012. He was arrested the next day at Maine Medical Center in Portland, where his baby died May 8 after being taken off life support. He remains in the York County Jail, a jail official said Thursday.
Collins-Faunce told police he grabbed his son and squeezed the infant’s head and threw him hard into a chair because the baby was crying and he was frustrated.
The Henderson baby lived with Collins-Faunce and his mother, Christina Henderson, 23, and was found unresponsive at his Limerick Road home by other family members, Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, said at the time. The baby initially was taken to Southern Maine Medical Center in Biddeford before being transferred to Portland.
Maine Department of Health and Human Services personnel removed two other children from the house, including the dead boy’s twin brother, McCausland said.
There were 25 homicides in Maine last year, and 11, or 44 percent, were the result of domestic violence, according to data compiled by McCausland and the Bangor Daily News.
Seven of the 2012 homicides occurred in Bangor.
Brown gave his family members a nod when he entered the courtroom Thursday wearing an orange jail jumpsuit and again when he was escorted out. His only words were to the judge: “Not guilty.”
BDN writer Ryan McLaughlin contributed to this report.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence and would like to talk with an advocate, call 866-834-4357, TRS 800-787-3224. This free, confidential service is available 24/7 and is accessible from anywhere in Maine.