A 23-year-old man is facing manslaughter and child endangerment charges after shaking his 7-month-old son, causing fatal injuries, Merced police reported.
Michael Burell was taken into custody Friday, the day after police responded to his apartment in the 1000 block of East Santa Fe Avenue and found the injured child unresponsive. Police arrested Burell on suspicion of child endangerment Thursday, but as of Monday he faced a manslaughter charge after the child was declared brain dead over the weekend, according to Merced Sgt. Scott Skinner.
Police haven't released the child's name. Officers went to the residence after receiving a call from the child's mother, 23-year-old Ashley Nicole Sarkis. The mother told police the child wasn't breathing. Police noticed a bruise on the child's forehead and bruising under his eyes. The child was taken to Children's Hospital Central California in Madera and placed on life support.
During the police investigation, Burell told officers he'd placed his son in his playpen while the mother was away from home. Burell claimed the baby was having trouble breathing a short time later, Skinner said.
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Burell also maintained the child had fallen by accident two days prior. Sarkis, the child's mother, told officers she'd been at Merced College when the child supposedly fell. During that time, Burell had been looking after the child. When she returned home, Burell told her about the child falling down while trying to climb into his walker, hitting his head on a toy. The parents said the child appeared unhurt from the fall and wasn't taken to the hospital.
But doctors who examined the child concluded the injuries were severe and probably due to shaken baby syndrome. "(The doctors) were pretty adamant that this was not accidental," Skinner said.
After speaking with doctors, officers arrested Burell. He was booked into Merced County Jail, where he remains without bail.
Burell and Sarkis have no other children between them, Skinner said. He said it's possible Burell could face more serious charges after the case is reviewed by the Merced County District Attorney's Office.
The term shaken baby syndrome is used to describe symptoms resulting from the violent shaking or impacting of an infant's head, according to the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome. More than 300 babies a year die from being shaken in the United States, according to the organization.
Detectives are asking anyone with information about the case to call Detective Robert Solis at (209) 385-4703 or the department's automated tip line at (209) 385-4725. Calls are kept confidential and you can remain anonymous.
Managing Editor Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.