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Trooper testifies on shaken 1-year-old in Smithfield

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Friday, Jan. 18, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A state trooper investigating a report of child abuse testified Thursday that he saw a 1-year-old Fayette County boy, lying unresponsive in his hospital bed, shortly after his mother violently shook him because he would not stop crying.

“His head was completely wrapped in some kind of bandages,” testified Trooper Daniel Boyd during a preliminary hearing for the boy's mother, Jessica Elizabeth Rhodes.

“There was visible blood through the bandages,” Boyd testified. “He had numerous tubes in his mouth and nose.”

Rhodes, 19, of 504 Second St., Smithfield, was held for trial following the hearing before Masontown District Judge Randy Abraham on charges of aggravated assault, child endangerment, reckless endangerment and simple assault.

Rhodes' son, Jonathan, was taken to Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh on Dec. 1 for treatment of a head injury. Police said Rhodes shook the boy at her mobile home 11 a.m. Dec. 1 when he would not stop crying.

Boyd testified Rhodes initially told him her son was holding on to a couch to steady himself in a standing position when he fell backward and struck his head on the floor.

During a subsequent interview, when advised a doctor had found the boy's injuries were caused by “abusive shaking,” Rhodes changed her story, Boyd testified.

“When we presented her with the diagnosis … about that not being the way the child was injured, she admitted that she became frustrated with the child because he wouldn't stop crying,” Boyd testified. “Out of frustration … she shook him until he stopped crying.”

Boyd testified Rhodes gave a written statement in which she indicated she did not realize what she had done until her son began to shake on his own. In court, Boyd read from Rhodes' statement.

“I wish I could go back and do it over, but I can't,” she wrote. “I'm really, truly sorry. I wish I could have my son back in my arms.”

Boyd testified that one of Jonathan's doctors indicated the boy suffered “a very significant brain injury.” The physician said the boy is expected to survive, but likely will have permanent brain damage, Boyd said.

Assistant District Attorney Linda Cordaro said she is not authorized to comment on the boy's condition.

Rhodes, who is free on bond, declined comment.

Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or

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