|Michael Shales (L) Melissa Shales|
Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Police: Tullytown couple arrested for abuse that broke infant twins' legs, other bones
Posted: Monday, May 16, 2016
A Tullytown couple is accused of abusing their two-month old twin girls, including breaking their legs and numerous other bones.
One baby's leg was so badly injured that a doctor at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children in Philadelphia said the baby could have died if the injury hadn't been treated, according to court documents. That baby was still in the hospital as of May 11.
Doctors found evidence of prior fractures in both legs of the second infant, police said. Physicians said both twins were malnourished.
Michael Shales, 30, and his wife Melissa, 25, of the 500 block of Main Street, were video arraigned Sunday night before District Judge Michael Gallagher on felony child abuse charges, including aggravated assault, conspiracy and endangering the welfare of children.
Melissa Shales told authorities she did "certain things (to the babies) out of anger (in front of her husband to) get a reaction out of him," court documents said.
The twin sister of the hospitalized infant and their 2-year-old brother were taken to the hospital for evaluation, according to authorities, who said those two children are in the custody of Bucks County Children and Youth Social Services. There was no indication if the boy had been abused.
Tullytown police started an investigation in March after they responded to a 911 call from Melissa Shales, who said her daughter had choked earlier in the day and was now having trouble breathing, according to a probable cause affidavit. The couple told responding officers the baby had some type of cloth lodged in her throat and when they tried to remove it with their fingers, their nails cut the baby's gums.
Police interviewed neighbors, including one who said she saw the baby's face turn blue as she gasped for air, according to court documents. When another neighbor asked Melissa Shales what was happening, Michael Shales allegedly said he stuck pliers down the baby's throat to retrieve a piece of cotton that was stuck there, the affidavit said.
The infant was taken to St. Mary Medical Center in Middletown, where she was transferred to St. Christopher's Hospital due to the severity of her injuries.
Dr. Maria McColgan, medical director of St. Christopher's child protective program, evaluated the girl and told police she had "numerous serious injuries," including a healing left thigh bone fracture, a healing rib fracture and an injury to the upper cervical spine, which is indicative of shaking, the affidavit said. McColgan advised these injuries were not accidental, police said.
McColgan also found a "significant" laceration injury in the baby's genital area, which Michael Shales said occurred when he wiped the area too hard and in the wrong direction when changing her diaper, the affidavit said. "Dr. McColgan indicated that the injuries observed by her were not consistent with Michael's claim of hard wiping," the affidavit said.
The infant girl also had mouth and pharynx lacerations the doctor found were "out of proportion" for a finger sweep to remove anything from the baby's throat. The doctor said the infant wasn't old enough to put something in her own mouth, court documents said.
In a police interview, Michael Shales said he was watching the baby when she looked like she was going to vomit; he looked in her mouth and saw a piece of cotton, police said. He did a finger sweep and pushed the cotton deeper in her mouth, court documents said. He removed the cotton after probing five more times, the affidavit said.
In her interview, Melissa Shales told police her husband told her the baby choked on a bottle and he used his fingers to clear the liquid obstruction, the affidavit said.
Melissa Shales told police the leg injury happened about 10 days earlier, when she grabbed and pulled the baby up by her leg and heard something in the leg pop, the affidavit said. When she told her husband what happened, she said the couple attempted to "pop or twist" the child's leg back into place, police said.
The day of the choking incident, Melissa Shales said she and her husband again tried twisting the baby's leg back into place. As the couple argued, Melissa Shales said she lost her grip on the injured baby, who hit her leg on a metal day bed railing, the affidavit said. McColgan told police the leg fracture was so severe it would have required "significant force" to inflict it, and the injury would have been "extremely painful," court documents stated.
A neighbor told police Melissa Shales told her she thought the baby's leg was broken about 10 days before the choking incident, the affidavit said. The neighbor said the baby couldn't straighten her leg, which was red and swollen, and the infant would cry when the leg was touched.
McColgan told police the other twin had two fractures of her left leg and a fracture of her right thigh bone, the affidavit said. The doctor described the injuries as "non-accidental" and consistent with pulling, shaking or twisting.
Police called conditions in the family's apartment "deplorable."
The couple was sent to Bucks County prison in lieu of 10 percent of $500,000 bail each.
If they do make bail, they were ordered to have no contact with their children and were required to turn their guns over to authorities. Police found several rounds of rifle ammunition lying on the floor, which was accessible to the 2-year-old, according to the affidavit.
Jo Ciavaglia: 215-949-4181; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @JoCiavaglia