ST. PAUL: Father charged in baby's death

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Date: 2004-03-19

ST. PAUL: Father charged in baby's death

Man recounts frustrations with sick son

BY MARA H. GOTTFRIED
Pioneer Press

A St. Paul man charged Thursday with murder in the death of his 6-month-old son told investigators he "freaked out" and intentionally dropped the child after the infant soiled himself, a towel and the floor.

When Steven D. Showcatally brought Gustavo Adolpho Hunt, whom he and his wife adopted from Guatemala in November, to St. Paul Children's Hospital on Tuesday,
the baby had multiple skull fractures and died less than three hours later, according to the Ramsey County attorney's office complaint charging Showcatally with second-degree unintentional murder.

The complaint gave this account:

Showcatally, 34, said he picked up Gustavo from day care after 3 p.m. Tuesday. The day-care staff gave Showcatally a bag of Gustavo's soiled clothes because,
as Showcatally told investigators, the boy had "messed his outfit with diarrhea again."

At the family home at 2023 Grand Ave., Showcatally noticed Gustavo had soiled himself again and the fecal material was all over his back.

Showcatally bathed Gustavo and wrapped him in a towel, but the baby had a bowel movement on the towel. Showcatally put Gustavo on a bedroom floor and while he
went to get a clean towel, the baby had another bowel movement on the floor.

"I freaked out, well, I didn't freak out," Showcatally told officers, explaining that he threw the towel.

Showcatally prepared to give Gustavo another bath and held the boy's buttocks under the faucet, "hosing him down." He said he then accidentally dropped Gustavo, whose head hit the bottom of the tub.

At about 5 p.m., Showcatally called his wife, Gail Hunt, and told her there had been an accident in the bathtub, that Gustavo's head was swelling and that she needed to come home .

Hunt told Showcatally to take Gustavo to the hospital and said she would meet him there. Showcatally kept telling Hunt he was sorry, she told investigators.

After arriving at the hospital with Gustavo at about 5:20 p.m., the boy was taken to the operating room at 6:35 p.m., but he died shortly before 8 p.m.

A scan of Gustavo's head showed severe head injuries that were inconsistent with Showcatally's explanation of the injuries and St. Paul police were called to the hospital.

In addition to skull fractures, an autopsy found multiple subgaleal hemorrhages, which is blood between the scalp and skull. The Ramsey County medical examiner's office determined the cause of death to be craniocerebral injuries, traumatic injuries that can involve the brain, cranial nerves and other structures and the manner of death to be homicide.

Showcatally and Hunt volunteered to go with police to give statements. Showcatally described his work situation as troubled.

When investigators told him that doctors said the severity of Gustavo's injuries was inconsistent with being dropped four or five feet, "he hung his head and nodded. He said he was sure what the doctors said was true. He said he killed Gustavo."

Showcatally told investigators that he dropped Gustavo accidentally, but then twice more intentionally. Afterward, he said he noticed the baby's eyes were twitching and rolling back in his head and he called his wife.

Showcatally is being held in the Ramsey County jail. His first court appearance is scheduled for today.

Showcatally and Hunt had been trying to adopt a child for four years when they brought Gustavo home.

Help available for stressed parents

For parents who feel overwhelmed with their children, a University of Minnesota professor says, "it's important to recognize you're frustrated and recognize you're not alone."

Try to "recognize you're having difficulty handling the strains and stresses that parenthood inevitably brings with it," said Susan J. Wells, the University of Minnesota's Gamble-Skogmo Professor in Child Welfare. "If you recognize it, you can get help and training, you can take a break while someone watches the child, you can take a mental break if you can't remove yourself from the situation. It's the old count-to-10 method."

Commenting on the allegations in this week's child death in St. Paul, Wells said, "It's not unusual that you would get this kind of description where a parent just loses it due to mounting frustrations that they can't handle."

Help can be found through the United Way's First Call for Help by calling 651-291-0211. To locate a parent support group, call Prevent Child Abuse Minnesota at 651-523-0099. Resources for parents by county can be found at www.familysupport.org/programs.cfm/map.cfm.

Mara H. Gottfried can be reached at mgottfried@pioneerpress.com or 651-228-5262.

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Know him

I went to school with steve and his brother, and they both were the nicest guys you'd want to have as buddies. This was a horrid act, but was an aberration to be sure. Steve was never violent, I'm sure this was an isolated thing - he and his brother both were gentle, happy, and always quick with a smile. I'm sure this was a convergence of factors and he exploded. Not defending him, but he WAS normal at one time; I think bad things can happen to decent people. Please don't think he was always violent - he wasn't. I grieve for his wife, Gustavo, and his brother, whom I won't identify for privacy reasons.

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