exposing the dark side of adoption
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Tot's safety worried him, doctor says; Child abuse inquiry requested before fatal injury


Author: Dennis Cassano; Staff Writer

Maria Ostlund's pediatrician asked county authorities to investigate whether the 2-year-old was the victim of child abuse one month before she died of head injuries on July 15.

The pediatrician, Dr. Mace Goldfarb, testified Tuesday that he was concerned for her safety because of the accumulation of events from the time she was adopted in September 1985 to June 1986.

He said she did not gain weight as fast as she should have; her arm was broken in October 1985 and it was never explained; and she and her adoptive mother, Janet Ostlund, did not seem to have the close relationship that adoptive parents and children usually have.

Maria Ostlund died a day after the head injury, which her mother said was caused by a fall from a couch.

Goldfarb said yesterday that the brain injury was so massive that he does not think it could have been caused by a fall. He said it could have been caused if the child had been shaken violently.

Janet Ostlund is on trial for second-degree murder - unintentionally causing death during an assault.

Her lawyer, Steve Meshbesher, told the jury last week that other physicians will testify that the injury could have been caused by a fall and could not have been caused by shaking.

Under questioning by Assistant County Attorney John Brink, Goldfarb said that if the injury was caused by a fall, there should have been cuts or scratches on the back of the child's head, but there was none. Under cross-examination, he said it was possible there would be none after landing on a linoleum floor.

The child also fell from a bench she was sitting on and hit her head on concrete eight days earlier, according to testimony. Her father, David, said she cried for a minute and then was all right.

Goldfarb said that that fall would not contribute to the fatal injuries sustained July 14.

The child's upper arm was fractured in October, but Goldfarb said that, in itself, that did not raise a question in his mind about the possibility of child abuse.

David Ostlund said his wife told him that she did not know how that injury happened, but guessed that a lamp might have fallen on her or that she hurt it while playing.

Goldfarb said the child, who was from El Salvador, weighed 18 pounds, 10 ounces when she arrived in the United States, but gained only 11 ounces in the next eight months, suggesting she was not getting enough to eat.

And he said the child did not seem drawn to her mother and Ostlund did not seem to be affectionate with the child.

Meshbesher argued that all three things could have been caused by the child's generally poor physical condition. He said she could have had rickets that led to the broken arm, but Goldfarb said that did not show up on X-rays. The X-rays have been lost.

Goldfarb said he does not know why the child did not gain weight and he had no proof that she was underfed.

The trial is to continue today.

1987 Jan 14