Parents of comatose 3-year-old under investigation

Relates to:
Date: 2010-04-01
Source: News Observer

APEX -- Police are investigating the parents of a 3-year-old adopted child they think may have been the victim of severe abuse, according to court records made public today.

The child is in a coma at the Duke University Medical Center. Police are investigating because doctors investigators that the child's head trauma was inconsistent with his parents' account of how he was injured, court records show.

Police are particularly concerned because there have been child abuse and neglect reports investigated by Wake County Child Protective Services since the child was adopted from an orphanage in China in November, court records show.

On March 19, the child, Adam Stein, of 121 Homegate Circle in Apex, was transported by emergency workers to WakeMed in Raleigh. He was breathing but unconscious after suffering a traumatic head injury, according to a search warrant application filed today at the Wake County Clerk of Courts Office.

When emergency workers arrived at the home, they found the child at the bottom of a staircase, Apex detective Worth T. Brown stated in the court affidavit.

The child's parents, Philip and Michele Stein, were home at the time, along with two neighbors, when emergency workers arrived. Michele Stein told the EMS workers that the child had fallen down the stairs earlier in the day while her husband was still at work, Brown stated in the search warrant application.

Michele Stein said she thought Adam was fine and put him down for a nap. When her husband came home from work, he checked on the boy and found him sleeping, according to the affidavit.

Philip Stein said he tried to wake Adam a short time later but the child was unresponsive, court records show.

The Steins called two neighbors, a nurse and emergency medical technician. who tried to wake Adam and told Philip Stein to call 911. Emergency rooms doctors determined that Adam's skull had been fractured with large bruises in the frontal region of his brain, Brown stated in the affidavit.

Medical workers transported Adam to Duke on March 20, and Dr. Karen St. Claire with the hospital's child abuse and neglect team told police that Adam's head trauma was inconsistent with falling down six carpeted stairs, Brown stated.

Investigators later learned that in January the child was admitted to the UNC Chapel Hill Burn Center with second and third degree burns to both his hands, court records show.

Michele Stein told authorities that she had turned on hot water in the bathtub to give Adam a bath and had left him briefly unattended while she went to get him clean pajamas.

Investigators with the county's child protective services suspected abuse, but determined the incident to be more consistent with "poor supervision and neglect," according to the affidavit.

In February, daycare workers at the daycare Adam attends noticed bruises on his back and leg. They also noticed that the child had lost weight since enrolling in the daycare.

Police have tried to speak with the Steins, but Michele's father told the investigators that they had consulted with an attorney who told them not to speak with the police. A hospital social worker, Martha Zimmerman, told police that nurses at the Duke hospital's pediatric intensive care unit had also been asked not to speak with the police, court records show.

Brown with the Apex police was unavailable for comment today.

News researcher Peggy Neal contributed to this report.

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