Perez case bound over to District Court
The case of a North Platte man suspected of causing injuries to a 17-month-old Lexington boy, was bound over to Dawson County District Court for trial. Dawson County Judge Jeff Wightman conducted a preliminary hearing Tuesday for Christopher Perez who faces a felony charge of child abuse. Lexington Police Investigator Paul Schwarz testified about being summoned to Lexington Regional Health Center on February 18th where Zachary Simite was brought by his mother and Perez who was her boyfriend at the time. Simite was stabilized by medical personnel and then transferred to the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. A flap was removed from his skull to relieve pressure on the brain. Schwarz says that through interviews he was told that Perez fell on the boy but, a treating physician informed him that the child's injuries were not consistent with a fall and "clearly could not have happened".
Inv. Schwarz says a pediatric doctor at UNMC told him Simite suffered a blunt force trauma to the head resulting in bleeding. There were also unexplained bruising on the body and indications of "shaken baby". A consulting eye doctor found hemorrhaging in the eyes that the doctor opined was the result from being "shaken or slammed". There was also an indication of a laceration to the spleen.
Inv. Schwarz said Simite continues his recovery at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln. Schwarz said the left side of his body is slower functioning and he is receiving physical and speech therapy.
Simite's mother, 20-year-old Kelsey Dangler of Lexington has also been charged with Felony Child Abuse in the case. Investigators believe she documented previous injuries to Simite and that she failed to seek medical care for him or report her suspicions to law enforcement.
Inv. Schwarz said he first spoke with Dangler at LRHC. He said that she had left her son alone with Perez the previous evening(February 17th) while she was at work. When she returned home and was preparing Simite for bed, she noticed bruises on his buttocks. Co-workers had informed Schwarz that Dangler received a text or call from Perez while she was at work. She told her co-workers that Perez said Simite had fallen from a bed and had a bloody nose. She did not leave work until she was finished from her shift. The next day she was at college in Kearney, again leaving her son in Perez's care.
Inv. Schwarz says Dangler told him that Perez told her he and Simite were playing on opposite sides of a child's gate on February 18th. Perez attempted to jump over the gate but, caught his foot on it and fell onto the child. The child's head struck a toy barn in the fall. At one point, Dangler said Perez indicated that the child fainted or passed out and then woke up and seemed to be doing better. Neither 9-1-1 nor the hospital were contacted at that time according to Schwarz. He said after Dangler returned home, the child was brought to the hospital. He estimated a couple of hours had passed between the reported fall and the trip to the hospital.
On cross examination, Defense Attorney Robert Lindemeier of North Platte asked Schwarz whether he had investigated any previous relationships of Dangler. Schwarz said he had not. Schwarz said that Perez had watched Simite throughout his relationship with Dangler. During Lindemeier's questioning, Schwarz also spoke of a black smudge, circular in pattern, that was observed about 4" above the child's gate in Dangler's apartment.
The felony child abuse charge is a Class II Felony with possible penalty of 1 to 50 years imprisonment. After determining the state met it's burden of proof in the preliminary hearing phase, Judge Wightman bound the case over to Dawson County District Court with arraignment scheduled for April 22nd at 1:00pm. Perez has been free on 10% of $100,000 bond, which Judge Wightman continued.
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