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Tearful father pleads guilty to fatally injuring boy; St. Paul man cited stress but takes full blame for death of adopted infant

Tearful father pleads guilty to fatally injuring boy

St. Paul man cited stress but takes full blame for death of adopted infant, attorney says.

Author: Paul Gustafson

When his infant son, nicknamed Gus, soiled himself for a second time last March after being freshly bathed, Steven D. Showcatally lost his temper and dropped the boy - first into an empty bathtub and then onto the floor.

Seven-month-old Gustavo Hunt, whom Showcatally and his wife, Gail Hunt, had adopted from Guatemala four months earlier, suffered fatal head injuries and died that day.

On Wednesday, Showcatally tearfully pleaded guilty to unintentional second-degree murder in an emotionally charged court hearing in St. Paul where even a prosecutor choked back tears.

Showcatally, 35, of St. Paul, faces a 12 1/2-year prison term, of which he would serve a minimum of eight years and four months. He will be sentenced Jan. 7 by Ramsey County District Judge Salvador Rosas.

Defense attorney Frederick Goetz said Showcatally, a decorated Gulf War veteran, was feeling ``an incredible amount of stress'' at the time of the incident, but takes full responsibility for his actions.

``Why this happened I don't know that anybody will be able to say,'' Goetz said after the court hearing. ``Lives can change in a second, and for [some] reason this terrible thing happened to this man and this boy.''

Showcatally was home alone with his son March 16 when he gave Gus a bath because the boy had diarrhea and had soiled his clothing.

After the bath, Showcatally said in court, he wrapped the boy in a towel, then accidently dropped him into the tub. The infant cried but seemed all right, he said.

Then, however, the boy soiled the towel, and Showcatally said he intentionally dropped him into the waterless tub.

The father said he picked up the boy, brought him into a bedroom and intentionally dropped him a second time on a carpeted floor. After that, Showcatally said, the boy became still and he knew there was something seriously wrong with him. He called his wife and took the boy to St. Paul Children's Hospital, where he died about three hours later.

Doctors determined that the boy had suffered multiple skull fractures and multiple hemorrhages beneath his scalp, according to a criminal complaint.

Showcatally initially told police that he had accidently dropped the boy in the bathtub, but did not notice anything unusual. After police challenged that story because of the boy's severe injuries, Showcatally told them he dropped the boy intentionally twice and was responsible for the injuries.

Paul Gustafson is at pgustafson@startribune.com.

2004 Nov 12