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Concord court releases details in ‘extreme’ child abuse case

His story at first was that the toddler had been standing on a toy box and had fallen but was okay. “A trooper,” he wrote in a text message to the baby’s mother, who was away at work. Later, he said he had been playing with the child in the hallway and she had fallen down the stairs. Then it was that he had left her briefly to buy cigarettes, and perhaps an intruder had attacked.

But none of those accounts described in a police affidavit explain why Scott Diberto, 25, of Concord did not call 911 that Sunday in January when his girlfriend’s daughter was severely and perhaps permanently injured. Or why Diberto didn’t tell his girlfriend anything was wrong, even after she returned home; instead, he put the child to bed before she arrived and tended to her himself until just before midnight, when the woman found the 14-month-old bruised and “limp,” according to the affidavit.

It was for those reasons that prosecutors stood fast yesterday, less than two weeks after Diberto’s arrest on charges of assault and child endangerment, when a public defender requested that his bail be dropped from $500,000 to $5,000 cash. And why Judge Gerard Boyle agreed to keep the original bail amount.

“This is not just a case of abuse, but a case of extreme abuse,” said Catherine Ruffle, the deputy county attorney. Ruffle said doctors treating the child found signs of “multiple events,” including blows to the head and “some form of suffocation or smothering.”

The child survived, but is a shell of her former self, Ruffle said. She is blind, unable to handle any of her own excretions and has no purposeful movements. Ruffle said the child was recently moved from Boston Children’s Hospital to a rehabilitation facility in Greenfield and is stable but showing “little improvement.”

The mother, who attended the bail hearing yesterday, dropped her head and began crying as Ruffle spoke.

Diberto is charged with two counts of first-degree assault, one count of second-degree assault and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child. The police said he was baby-sitting the child alone Jan. 26, the day of the alleged attacks, in an apartment at 23 Ormond St. in Concord.

In a later search of the residence, detectives found blood on a mattress and a pillow in the child’s bedroom, according to the affidavit, unsealed yesterday in Concord’s district court. The toy box was in the living room, with no signs that someone had been injured on or around it, the police said. The stairwell was also clean.

“It appears that the bloody pillow could have been used to smother (the child),” Detective Julie Curtin wrote in the affidavit. Curtin also said a neighbor told officers he heard banging in the apartment during the hours Diberto was caring for the child, in the vicinity of her bedroom.

Since the incident was first reported, Diberto has shown the police and others a broad range of emotions, according to the affidavit. When officers first arrived at the residence, 20 minutes after the mother found the child and called emergency officials, he began sobbing and told them, “This is all my fault,” the affidavit said. Then, minutes later, an officer heard him say, “Everybody is going to blame me for this.”

Days after the incident, he texted the girlfriend. “Sorry,” he wrote, according to the affidavit. “I wana die and I deserve too.”

Days later, on Feb. 8, he told her he “knows that he is going to prison and that he is going to be held for ‘that baby’s f------ injuries,’ ” the affidavit said. When she responded that the child might never walk or talk again, he said “he was going to slit his wrist,” it said.

Diberto has also given detectives various accounts of what happened. In one interview, according to the affidavit, he played up the toy box scenario. In another, he told officers he had left the baby unattended about noon to buy cigarettes from a 7-Eleven. When he returned to the apartment, he said, according to the affidavit, the front door was ajar. He “inferred that there had been an intruder that hurt (the child),” the affidavit said.

But surveillance tape from 7-Eleven showed Diberto made no such trip. He did visit the convenience store that day, the tape showed, according to the affidavit, but much later – about 4:15 p.m. – and for a six-pack of beer, not cigarettes. The baby did not appear with him, the affidavit said.

Ruffle said Diberto has a criminal record that includes drug charges, theft, criminal mischief and several violations. In interviews with detectives, his mother and an ex-girlfriend who he has a 2-year-old child with each said he has a history of anger problems. The ex-girlfriend said she does not allow him unsupervised visits with the child, as “there’s no telling what he could do,” she said, according to the affidavit. When asked about his temper, Diberto’s mother told detectives he often punches pillows and walks away from aggravating situations.

Diberto’s public defender, Catherine Flinchbaugh, did not address his abuse charges yesterday. But in her bail request, she said he has spent his entire life in New Hampshire and would likely return to Laconia, where he has family, upon release.

Ruffle said she had concerns with that scenario. Diberto has a history of jumping bail and failing to report for court appointments, she said, and the state’s investigation in recent weeks showed that his family members “may be involved in illegal drug use and/or sales.”

Diberto, seated next to Flinchbaugh in an orange prison jumpsuit, cast his eyes down for much of the proceeding. At the end, as a bailiff escorted him out of the courtroom, an older woman, a speculator, shouted after him.

“Scotty,” she said.

He didn’t turn.

(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319, jblackman@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)

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