Doctor testifies in Army couple’s trial about suspicions of child abuse
By KAREN SUDOL
In treating the injured 2-year-old adopted daughter of Army Maj. John E. Jackson and his wife, Carolyn, a doctor testified Tuesday that he was reminded of a patient he had seen two years earlier with similar injuries: the girl’s adopted brother.
Juan Gutierrez, head of the pediatrics intensive care unit at Morristown Medical Center, testified Tuesday in the Jacksons’ child-abuse trial in federal court in Newark that the underweight girl’s body, dotted with scars, resembled that of the boy he had previously treated.
“I came to the realization that the mother taking care of this child was the same person who had been taking care of the prior child I had seen,” he said.
Gutierrez was the first witness called at the trial of the Jacksons, who are charged with abusing and neglecting their three young adopted children through beatings, withholding water and force-feeding them hot pepper flakes and sauce. The couple lived at Picatinny Arsenal in Morris County for a period during which they also are charged with withholding proper medical care from their children.
Their attorneys have said the Jacksons never intended to harm their children.
Gutierrez saw the girl on Apr. 15, 2010 after she was transferred from another emergency room with reports of seizures and sleepiness. He noticed she was small, weighing 15 pounds at 2 years old, that scars covered her body and that she had dangerously high levels of sodium in her body, which could lead to her death.
He said Carolyn Jackson told him the girl had problems with growth because her birth mother had been drug-addicted and she had a history of recurrent skin infections. The couple also told him that part of the child’s missing upper lip was due to an infection, Gutierrez testified.
After discovering an old injury, a fracture of the upper arm, Guiterrez said, he contacted child protective services because he was concerned there “could be some indication of abuse involved.” He had ruled out any medical conditions or diseases that caused the girl’s illnesses.
Two years prior, he said, he had treated the nearly 3-year-old son of the couple, who weight just 20 pounds and exhibited scars. The boy was brought to the hospital because he suffered from scalded skin syndrome, a painful bacterial infection that causes blisters and resembles burns.
Gutierrez said the boy’s mother him told that the boy has been born prematurely to a mother with a history of substance abuse and that he had problems growing and had recurring skin problems that included boils.
The trial was set to continue today before U.S. District Judge Katharine S. Hayden.