A Casper man suspected of throwing his 2-year-old daughter against a wall and fracturing her skull pleaded not guilty Tuesday morning at his district court arraignment to a felony child abuse charge.
Police arrested Justin Thomas Ross on Oct. 13 after the child’s mother brought the child to the Wyoming Medical Center emergency room, according to court documents.
Doctors found that the child had a fractured skull, two broken ribs and severe bruising all over her body. The child had been staying with Ross for the past week, the documents state.
The toddler’s mother told police that she had dropped off the girl with Ross on Oct. 5 and that the girl was in good health at the time. When the mother picked up the child on Oct. 11, she noticed bruising on the girl’s face and neck. Ross told the mother that the child had fallen from a bed.
Later that evening, the mother was bathing the girl when she noticed bruising to the rest of her body and later brought the girl to the hospital.
An older sibling who had been with Ross and the child on for part of the day on Oct. 5 told police that he didn’t like Ross because he was “mean,” according to court documents. The sibling told police that Ross had choked the toddler like he was “trying to pop her head off” and then threw the child against the wall.
In an interview with police, Ross said he had custody of the child between Oct. 5 and Oct. 11 and that the girl didn’t have any bruising when he picked her up, the documents state.
Ross told police that he heard a loud crash come from the girl’s room one of the nights she was staying with him. He ran into the room and saw the girl on the floor. He said he thought the child had been jumping on the bed and fell off, according to the documents.
When detectives confronted Ross with evidence of the other injuries, Ross said that the marks on the face could have happened when he pinched her as discipline. He said the the bruising to her buttocks could have happened when he gave her “two small swats” as discipline on another occasion, the documents state.
When police told Ross about what the sibling had told them and the seriousness of the skull fracture, Ross said that perhaps the child had fallen into the fall on her own or had fallen off the bed multiple times.
Police then arrested Ross. Investigators later searched the man’s home and found a small crack in the wall “that appeared to be the impact site of where the child was thrown into,” according to court documents. There was hair that appeared to match the child’s stuck in the crack.
Prosecutors charged Ross with aggravated child abuse. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 25 years and a $10,000 fine.
Ross was previously released in lieu of $50,000 bond and appeared for his arraignment in Natrona County District Court Tuesday in a black suit along with a hired defense attorney.
Natrona County District Court Judge Catherine Wilking modified Ross’ bond to allow him to travel to Campbell County to meet with his lawyers, who are based there, and to Platte County for work.