BANGOR, Maine — A New Hampshire man accused of placing his girlfriend’s 2-year-old son in a clothing dryer at her Bangor home last month and turning on the machine remained behind bars Monday.
The boy suffered second-degree burns to his back and arms with a distinct pattern that matched the drum of the dryer, had blisters on his feet, bruises all over his body and cuts that matched bolts on the inside of the appliance, according to the probable cause affidavit filed in court by Bangor police Detective Tim Shaw.
Adam Morton, 27, of Berlin, New Hampshire, was charged with aggravated assault Aug. 28 and remained in custody at the Penobscot County Jail in Bangor.
“Mr. Morton admitted that on August 2, 2014, he put [the boy] into the dryer, shut the door and turned it on,” Shaw wrote in the affidavit, referring to the injured child. “He stated that [the child] was not in the dryer for very long. He indicated that the dryer made only one revolution.”
Detective Josh Kuhn and Shaw went to Berlin, New Hampshire, twice to interview Morton, who recently moved there from Bangor. The second interview took place Aug. 27, which is when he allegedly admitted to the crime.
“I asked him if he ‘snapped,’ he told me he did,” Shaw wrote. “He stated he was remorseful and regretted that it had ever happened.”
Morton was charged with aggravated assault the following day and later was extradited to Maine. He remained in jail Monday, unable to post the $2,500 cash bail set by Superior Court Justice Ann Murray. She also barred Morton from contacting any children under the age of 6, including the child named in the affidavit.
It’s likely Morton will be indicted by the Penobscot County grand jury, so he was not asked to enter a plea when he had his first appearance before Murray on Friday at the Penobscot Judicial Center.
The injured boy and his three brothers are still living in Bangor with their 24-year-old mother, the affidavit states.
The mother returned from work at around 4 p.m. Aug. 2, when she found her youngest son injured and took him to the emergency room at Eastern Maine Medical Center. She told police she recently had broken up with the children’s father and only had been dating Morton for a short time but did not believe he would hurt the children.
“For me, I don’t believe for a second Adam did it,” the mother said Monday, standing on the front steps of her apartment holding her scarred child. “It just doesn’t make sense to me. For me, [the evidence is] inconclusive.”
“Somebody had to do something to him. He was really beat up,” she said later. “He has three older brothers, and boys get crazy and play rough.”
The mother of four said she believes police pressured Morton into confessing.
“The detective said things would go a lot smoother if he confessed,” she said. “It was weeks of pressure. It wasn’t just two interviews. I told him to get a polygraph. I told him not to confess to something you never did.”
“It’s not because of my feeling for Adam. It just doesn’t make sense,” the mother said. “I can’t explain what happened. I can’t explain how he got the burns.”
Mike Sousa of New Hampshire, the father of the four boys, came to Maine the day after hearing his youngest son was injured, he said.
“It was really awful,” Sousa said Monday of the injuries to his son. “There was like a yellow pus on his really bad burn on his [right] elbow, and it stretched [across his back] to his left shoulder blade.
“He went through a lot,” he said, patting his son on the top of his head at the apartment of the boy’s mother.
The bandages were removed after about two weeks.
“He’s back to his old self,” Sousa said of his son, now that a month has passed since the incident.
Morton’s story changed several times, according to the affidavit, from him saying he just did a load of laundry while he took a shower to accusing the older boys of injuring the child to finally admitting to the felony crime that could place him in prison for up to 10 years if convicted.
“Based on an analysis of the lesions, this trauma could only have occurred inside the dryer,” Dr. Lawrence Ricci, a Portland physician consulted by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services in child abuse and neglect cases, told police. “It is also likely that the child was in the dryer for a fairly prolonged period of time, and the dryer, indeed, may have been turning.”
Police seized the dryer and through testing determined it could reach temperatures of up to 180 degrees in just three minutes.
“The charges were aggravated assault, which I kinda question,” Sousa said. “If he’s a 30-year-old man, and my son is a 2-year-old boy and he admits to putting him in a dryer. I don’t know what world we live in today, but that’s definitely … attempted murder at least.”
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.