ISSAQUAH, Wash. - An Issaquah father faces a possible 10 year prison term because police say he broke his infant son's skull in two places, causing brain damage.
James Sells, 36, has no criminal history, but the father of two faces felony assault of a child charges for what King County Deputy Prosecutor Allison Bannerman called "an extremely violent" attack on Sells' 6-week old baby. "His head was placed between the defendant's forearm and bicep, and the defendant squoze his head while still pushing down on his face, in order to stop his cries," Bannerman told Judge Mark Chow during Sells' bail hearing at the King County Correctional Facility in downtown Seattle on Tuesday.
According to court documents, the baby's mother, Heather Sells, noticed bruising to the child's face late last week and "after several hours she noted swelling to the head and the head appeared to be misshapen." Both parents took the infant to Swedish Medical Center in Issaquah, but the child was soon transported to Seattle Children's in critical condition. Doctors there determined the baby's skull was fractured in two places and that there was an injury to the right frontal lobe, along with facial bruises.
Detective Brian Horn of the Issaquah Police Department said that Sells admitted he "placed the victim's head in the bend of his arm between the forearm and bicep, and squeezed the victim's head by flexing." Horn said Sells also admitted to having two drinks during the incident, to bouncing the baby "very aggressively out of anger," and to slapping his son across the face. According to his statement with police, Sells was tired and frustrated the baby wouldn't stop crying. "Frustration that went to an extreme, strong enough to fracture a skull," Horn told KIRO 7 reporter Amy Clancy.
The boy -- identified in court documents as "A.N.S." -- has been released from the hospital and will survive. The extent of his long-term injuries, if any, won't be known for years, Horn said.
Meanwhile, Pastor John Lamunyon, of Sammamish Hills Lutheran Church, vouched for Sells in court and blamed the incident on exhaustion. "I think it was borne out of a deep fatigue on the father's part," he said. Lamunyon also called Sells "one of the gentlest men I've ever known," and offered Sells a place to live if he bails out of jail.
Chow set bail at $150,000. If released, Sells is to have no unsupervised contact with any minor children. His wife declined to comment, but asked for privacy when KIRO 7 contacted her at the family's Issaquah home.