Though it’s rare, it’s possible for a 2-foot fall to create as much force on an unprotected baby’s head as two football players slamming into each other, according to an expert who testified Thursday in the trial of a Gustine father accused of killing his infant son.
The father, Andrew Sanchez, told investigators 9-month-old Maddix Ramsour fell from a bed inside his home during a diaper change on March 5, 2015. Sanchez has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and child cruelty.
The fall could have been deadly if the child previously had damaged his brain in another fall, according to Chris Van Ee, a biomechanical engineering consultant and professor at Wayne State University in Detroit.
My opinion is that a 2-foot fall could have done this. Once in a while weird things happen.
Chris Van Ee, a biomechanical engineering consultant and professor at Wayne State University in Detroit
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The baby fell at least three other times, according to previously heard testimony at the Merced County Superior Courthouse.
Maddix suffered a subdural hematoma, causing bleeding in the brain so severe it was inconsistent with a short fall, according to testimony previously heard from a pediatrician and forensic pathologist. Van Ee’s testimony contradicted that testimony.
“My opinion is that a 2-foot fall could have done this,” he said Thursday. “Once in a while, weird things happen.”
The engineer has studied the way infants are injured in car crashes and from falls, according to testimony, including re-enacting accidents with infant crash test dummies.
A report from Merced County Forensic Pathologist Mark Super concludes that Maddix was slammed onto a soft surface.
A report from Merced County Forensic Pathologist Mark Super concludes that Maddix was slammed onto a soft surface. Van Ee refuted that report as well, saying the child would not likely suffer extensive injuries from landing on a soft surface.
He went on to say each person’s body reacts differently to trauma. “There’s a variation from person to person on how much of a hit they can take,” he said.
Sanchez’s defense attorney also called Dr. Carl Wigren, a forensic pathologist from Seattle. He testified that he could not rule out an accidental fall as the cause of Maddix’s injuries.
Closing statements are expected in court on Friday.