A 5-year-old boy is fighting for his life in the Pediatric Unit of Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center while his father sits in a jail cell, accused of beating the boy nearly to death, Baton Rouge police said.
Vernell Day, 36, allegedly beat his son so badly he caused bleeding in the boy’s brain, said Cpl. Don Coppola, a police spokesman. Doctors also found myriad bruises over the boy’s body in various stages of healing, several forehead contusions and signs of malnutrition.
Police booked Day, 1424 N. 48th St., into Parish Prison late Tuesday on one count each of attempted first-degree murder and felon in possession of a firearm.
In the affidavit of probable cause, homicide detectives wrote that there are “obvious signs of abuse and neglect” and that Day engaged in “numerous acts of cruelty.” They noted that Day was the only adult at the home when the child sustained the injuries.
The boy has no pupil response to stimuli and is not expected to survive, the affidavit says. Doctors told police that the injuries the 5-year-old sustained were not consistent with a fall.
The allegations surprised Day’s neighbors, who described him as a good father who kept to himself and brought his son and another child to and picked them up from school every day.
“I had no idea he was treating those kids like that,” said neighbor Mandrea Smith, 72, referring to the victim and a girl Smith said stayed at the house periodically.
Attempts to reach Day’s family late Tuesday were unsuccessful.
Paramedics responded to Day’s blue shotgun house on North 48th, near Gus Young Avenue, at 11:15 p.m. Monday on a report that a boy was injured after falling from the bed, the affidavit says. Paramedics found the boy unresponsive and transported him to the hospital with life-threatening injuries.
About 2 a.m., hospital officials alerted police about the severity of the injuries, Coppola said.
The department’s Special Response Team executed a search warrant on the home about 8 a.m. Tuesday, but found no evidence related to the beatings, Coppola said.
Smith said officers sat outside Day’s house since at least 4 a.m., four hours before the raid. She said the only thing police took out of the house was a small, purple Crown Royal bag with something in it. The affidavit says police found a handgun magazine with ammunition.
Day has several drug convictions going back to 2000 and therefore cannot legally have handgun ammunition, court records and the affidavit say.
Several hours after the raid, detectives transported Day from the hospital to the East Baton Rouge Parish Violent Crimes Unit at State Police headquarters, Coppola said. Police arrested Day about 4:30 p.m.
“I didn’t beat my son,” Day told reporters outside the VCU, adding he was not going say anything because he had already made a statement to police. Coppola said Day refused to make a statement.
Police are unsure how long Day had been beating the boy, but Coppola said Day was the primary caretaker. Coppola said he was unsure if there were any records of previous abuse.
John Davis, 60, has lived next to Day for about three years and said while he did not have a good relationship with the 36-year-old man, he never saw any signs of abuse or malnutrition in the son.
Day kept the boy inside with him most of the time, Davis said.
Smith said the allegations of malnutrition really surprised her because Day cooked for the boy a lot and if there were leftovers, Day would walk across the street and offer the food to her.
“I don’t know anything bad about him,” she said, but added: “You never know what’s going on in somebody’s house.”