Father accused of beating girl resists removing life support
http://www.ohio.com – Nearly every day, 18-year-old Deja Ruiz sits bedside with her infant daughter at Akron Children’s Hospital.
Beneath the wires and tubes keeping her child alive, there is little hope for 6-month-old Jada, Ruiz said.
Bones are broken. Her brain is essentially lifeless.
The visits with her daughter, Ruiz said, need to end. It has been nearly a month, and she wants to lift her daughter from life support and into God’s hands.
”I’m trying to stay strong, and sometimes I break down, but I have to leave it all to God,” Ruiz said Thursday.
Across the city sits the infant’s father, 17-year-old John Jones, an inmate inside the Summit County Juvenile Detention Center. The teen, accused of beating the infant, hasn’t given up on his daughter, his attorney said.
Jones has filed court papers seeking to stop Ruiz from removing the life support. A hearing is set for Tuesday in Summit County Probate Court.
”He’s very concerned,” said Jones’ attorney, Pamela A. Hawkins. ”He’s kind of depressed, as any par
ent would be when their child is in that kind of condition.”
The case could set a legal precedent in that it pits a juvenile father against an adult mother and their difference of opinion on life support.
At issue, as well, is who should speak for Baby Jada.
It was Jones who first called authorities the morning of March 19. He was home with Jada, her twin, Jzmine, and their 2-year-old brother, Ty’shaun.
Ruiz was away from the Springdale Avenue apartment in Akron, attending classes at Akron Digital Academy that morning.
Ruiz and Jones had dated for three years, but were never married. The twin girls were born four months premature, according to police reports.
Jones, who was holding the infant when Akron officers arrived, told detectives that when he went to change Jada’s diaper, the infant was unresponsive. She has been hospitalized ever since.
Officials say the girl is brain damaged from shaken baby syndrome and also has multiple fractures to her legs and arms.
Jzmine also had fractures to her legs. She has recovered, officials said.
All three children have been placed in the temporary custody of the county’s Children Services Board.
Jones was arrested in late March, charged with felonious assault and felony child endangering.
Prosecutors are seeking to try him as an adult. Hearings are scheduled in juvenile court for May and June.
A homicide charge could be brought against Jones, if Jada dies.
In an interview Thursday, Ruiz said she no longer speaks with Jones.
She is trying to regain custody of each child. She visits with Jzmine and Ty’shaun twice a week and nearly every day with Jada at the hospital.
Doctors have told her that Jada has no chance of recovery.
”It’s difficult, really difficult,” Ruiz said. ”For me to see Jada like that, it breaks my heart every time. She’s not getting better. She’s getting worse. I just want to make the right decision for her.”
Hawkins, who represents Jones in the life-support case, and Joseph Gorman, an attorney appointed to Jones’ criminal case, said Thursday that their client maintains he did not assault his daughters.
”He has his suspicions as to how she was hurt,” Hawkins said.
In her motion, Hawkins wrote that Jones became aware late last month of a planned meeting between Ruiz and medical staff regarding Jada’s life support.
He also alleged that CSB sought to return Ruiz’s children to her under a protective supervision plan, a move that would allow for the mother to approve the removal of life support.
”[CSB] is currently seeking a legal means for the mother to give consent to terminate the life support of [Jada] in spite of [Jones'] clearly stated objections . . . ,” Hawkins wrote in court papers.
John Saros, CSB’s executive director, said the girl is suffering from ”very, very, severe, profoundly involved injuries” that require life support.
He said Thursday the agency’s attempt to change the custody was made to allow both parents to make a decision on Jada’s medical care. CSB was unaware of the parents’ conflict at the time the change was requested, he said.
The agency, which had only nutritional involvement with the family prior to last month, has taken no position on the infant’s care, he said.
”What we support is that the parents make the decision, especially in something as extreme as this,” Saros said.
Juvenile Judge Linda Tucci Teodosio denied the custody change. She also referred Jones’ life-support motion to Probate Judge Bill Spicer.
Baby Aiden is now 6
Spicer ruled in a similar case in 2004 involving an infant on life support and a father charged with his beating.
The parents of 1-year-old Aiden Stein sought to stop Akron attorney Ellen Kaforey, the child’s court-appointed guardian who wanted Aiden removed from life support.
Spicer granted the guardian’s request, but the Ohio Supreme Court later ruled that the probate court lacked jurisdiction in the case.
”The right to withdraw life-supporting treatment for a child remains with the child’s parents until the parents’ rights are permanently terminated,” the court found.
Aiden Stein, who was left blind, deaf and brain damaged, is now 6 years old and living in a medical facility, attorneys said. His father, Mathew Stein, is nearing the end of an eight-year prison term he received for felonious assault.
Nancy Flower, an Akron attorney appointed as guardian ad litem for Jada, declined comment.
A spokeswoman for Children’s Hospital did not return a message seeking comment.
Gina D’Aurelio, an attorney representing Jones’ guardian, his grandmother Christine Billings, said the teen’s efforts are designed to allow further examination of Jada’s condition.
”There’s still a lot of investigation that has to be done, and John and his [grandmother] want everything explored before the termination of any life support,” D’Aurelio said.
In an interview Thursday, Kaforey said Jada’s case is unusual because of the conflicting wishes of her parents and Jones’ status as a juvenile.
She said it would be unlikely that Akron Children’s medical staff would go forward with removing life support without the consent of both parents or a court order.
The issue could be fought in courts for months â€” or longer, attorneys said.
Further complicating the case, Kaforey said, is the fact that the couple is not married, lessening, at least for now, the legal standing of Jones.
”The law says that the mother, by virtue of giving birth, is the custodial parent and decision maker,” Kaforey said. ”The dad is kind of left out.”