Cleburne man charged with child abuse

Date: 2006-02-10

Cleburne man charged with child abuse

06:04 PM CST on Friday, February 10, 2006
By JEFF MOSIER / The Dallas Morning News

A member of a politically prominent Cleburne family was charged Friday with hitting a baby he was adopting shortly before the child died, police said

David Michael Giddens, 42, was arrested by Cleburne police and was being held in lieu of $150,000 bail. Detectives were still investigating Friday and awaiting the Johnson County medical examiner's ruling about whether the 3-month-old's death was a homicide.

"The information indicates that Mr. Giddens struck the child at least two times [with his hand]," said Sgt. Amy Knoll, a Cleburne police spokeswoman.

Mr. Giddens' family declined to comment but released a written statement.

"David, our son and brother, is a good man and a loving father who suffers from multiple sclerosis," the Giddens said in their statement. "We make no excuses for his alleged actions but firmly believe that this tragic death was accidental."

The letter did not explain how Mr. Giddens' disease was connected to the child's death.

Mr. Giddens father, Roy Jr., is the treasurer of the Johnson County Republican Party, and his brother, Doug, unsuccessfully ran for Johnson County commissioner in 2004.

The baby's surviving twin brother and the Giddens' 9-year-old daughter were removed from the home by Child Protective Services Friday afternoon, said Marissa Gonzales, an agency spokeswoman.

"Until we can get more information and while we are working with police, we feel like the safest place for the surviving children is in foster care," she said.

The children will be examined by doctors and then placed with foster families until the investigation is completed. CPS also investigated a report of abuse or neglect in 2002, but the Giddens were cleared, Ms. Gonzales said.

Mr. Giddens' wife called 911 about 2:15 a.m. Thursday to report that one of their babies had stopped breathing, police said. When officers arrived at the house in the 1100 block of Prairie Avenue, Mr. Giddens was performing CPR on the infant.

However, Nicholas Rhea Hoffert was already dead, Sgt. Knoll said.

Officers did not find any sign of foul play during the preliminary investigation. Later, the medical examiner's office contacted police and reported that the child suffered a head injury at or near the time of his death. Sgt. Knoll said she didn't know why Mr. Giddens struck the infant.

Nicholas and his twin brother were born in Michigan Nov. 19, and the Mr. Giddens and his wife were adopting the boys. The couple brought the twins to Cleburne Dec. 24.

"While we have only known Nicholas since Christmas Eve, we have fallen deeply in love with him and will miss him so very much," the family said in the written statement.

E-mail jmosier@dallasnews.com

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