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Police: Mt. Lebanon man punched infant daughter to death because she was fussy

Megan Guza
| Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, 6:24 p.m.
Joseph Gazzam
Joseph Gazzam

A Mt. Lebanon father repeatedly punched his infant daughter, killing her, because she “was fussy,” Allegheny County police alleged Monday.

Joseph Gazzam, 30, first told police that the child fell out of bed while the two napped late Sunday morning, according to a criminal complaint filed against Gazzam.

An autopsy revealed a fractured arm, brain bleeding, lacerated heart and kidney, broken ribs, bruises and hemorrhages behind 4-month-old Victoria's eyes, according to the county medical examiner.

Police measured the distance from the edge of Gazzam's bed to the ground – just over two feet, according to the complaint.

Gazzam is charged with homicide.

Police and paramedics initially responded to Gazzam's Osage Road home just before 12:30 p.m. Sunday for a report of an unresponsive child, according to Lt. Andrew Schurman. Paramedics took Victoria to St. Clair Hospital, where she was pronounced dead less than an hour later.

Gazzam told police he was caring for the infant while the child's mother was at work, according to the complaint. He said after changing and feeding Victoria, they lay down for a nap, and he fell asleep with the child tucked into the crook of his left arm.

When he awoke, he found the infant face-down on the floor, unresponsive, according to the complaint. When police asked about Victoria's broken arm, Gazzam allegedly said he “forcefully removed her from her bassinet” earlier in the day.

Confronted with his daughter's autopsy results, Gazzam allegedly told police that Victoria was fussy and “would not stop crying and would not fall asleep again.” He said he became angry.

“Joseph stated that he punched her twice in the head, punched her in the stomach and punched her in the back,” police wrote in the complaint.

Later, when Victoria stopped breathing and her eyes rolled back in her head, Gazzam called 911, police said.

In addition to homicide, Gazzam is also charged with reckless endangerment and endangering the welfare of a child.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Friday.

Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8519, mguza@tribweb.com or via Twitter @meganguzaTrib.

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