By Jay Meisel
STUART - In the months following the death of a 3-month-old boy, his mother and her boyfriend told conflicting stories about what happened and who was present, according to a complaint affidavit.
But armed with the results of an autopsy showing the child, referred to only as Bryson in the report, died from head trauma and appeared to have suffered from a pattern of abuse, detectives continued investigating, a complaint affidavit said.
After more than a year of investigation, Stuart Police arrested the mother's boyfriend in connection with the death.
Charles William Dowell, 24, 8703 S.E. Jardin St., Hobe Sound, was arrested July 18 and charged with first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse.
His arrest was in connection with the death of Bryson who was declared dead on Jan. 28, 2011, at St. Mary's Medical Center in West Palm Beach.
No charges have been filed against the mother, Skylor French, 19.
The autopsy showed the child's skull had two fractures on the left side and one on the right side, the affidavit said.
Linda O'Neill, who conducted the autopsy at the medical examiner's office, determined the largest fracture, 4-1/2 inches long, was on the left side, the affidavit said.
"It was Dr. O'Neill's expert opinion that Bryson had suffered at least two impacts to his head," the affidavit said.
"Dr. O'Neill advised that after the serious impact that caused the 4-1/2 inch gaping fracture, Bryson would have undergone an immediate change. Dr. O'Neill advised Bryson would have been unresponsive, had difficulty breathing, possible seizures and (be) in a state of distress. Dr. O'Neill believed this injury occurred on Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2011, and resulted in his death."
Despite what the doctor said would have happened, the mother and Mr. Dowell told authorities, in one of the conflicting stories, that they were taking the child to the hospital, but first stopped at Indian River Community College in Martin County to pick up a family member, the affidavit said.
The autopsy also stated there were numerous factures on his arms and legs, injuries which were in different stages of healing, the affidavit said.
"Bryson had no ability to cause the injuries he sustained to himself based on his mobility and age," the affidavit said. "Bryson was a normal healthy baby with no disorders or ailments, which would have resulted in broken bones or unexplainable injuries. Bryson was enduring serious abuse, which is indicated by the broken bones in different states of healing."
In the days leading up to the fatal injury, the child's grandmother discovered an injury behind the child's left ear on Jan. 21, 2011,, the affidavit said.
"No one has been able to give an explanation as to how the injury occurred," the affidavit said.
Family members gave conflicting stories about what happened on Jan. 26, 2011, including whether Bryson was left at home when the mother took another family member to IRSC in Martin County.
However, the affidavit also indicates Bryson was experiencing no major medical problems at the time of the initial trip to IRSC.
Mr. Dowell denied touching the baby, the affidavit said.
The mother, who at first said she took Bryson with her on the trip to IRSC, later told authorities she left Bryson at home with Mr. Dowell, the affidavit said.
When she arrived home, she gave the baby a bath and only at the end of the bath did the child appear to be having problems, the affidavit said.
But she also gave a conflicting story that the baby was having problems at the beginning of the bath, the affidavit said.
More than an hour later, Bryson began to have more serious problems, the mother told authorities, according to the affidavit.
She and Mr. Dowell then decided to take the baby to the hospital, but first picked up the family member who was transported to IRSC earlier, the affidavit said.
But Mr. Dowell later said the baby didn't have any problems until they were in the car, the affidavit said.
Based on a timeline provided by Mr. Dowell, an investigator determined the baby did not get medical treatment until more than an hour after he began suffering serious medical problems, the affidavit said.
On Jan. 27, after Bryson was at the hospital, the mother and her boyfriend texted about Bryson having suffered a fall.
"With her son, Bryson at the hospital, it is interesting that French tells Dowell to then be calm about the situation," the affidavit said.
During a polygraph examination, Mr. Dowell mentioned possibilities that he had accidentally bumped the child's head on the side of the baby bath, the side of a bathtub or the inside of a car door, the affidavit said.
He also admitted to using roxycodone on Jan. 26, 2011.
But Dr. O'Neill told investigators none of those explanations fit the injuries Bryson suffered.