EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 17, 2013

Judge to render verdict in baby abuse case

By Jill Harmacinski
jharmacinski@eagletribune.com

---- — LAWRENCE — A judge — not a jury — will decide the fate of Heather Dragotta and Steve Amos, who are charged with abusing Dragotta’s baby girl Autumn three years ago.

Jury selection in the trial, which is being held at Lawrence Superior Court, was supposed to start yesterday morning. Instead, Defense attorneys for Dragotta, 33, and Amos, 34, requested the case be “jury waived,” meaning Judge Richard Welch will hear the case and render verdicts.

The pair is charged with multiple counts of assault and battery on a child resulting in injury and permitting injury to a child.

The pair is accused of harming Autumn, who was just 5 1/2 weeks old when she was diagnosed with 21 fractures and a brain hemorrhage, while they were living in North Andover.

Charges were brought against Dragotta and Amos after Autumn was first brought to Lawrence General Hospital and later examined at Children’s Hospital in Boston.

Prosecutors said the baby’s injuries were “with a consistent with a violent shaking” and “inflicted.”

But Dragotta said her baby suffered from a lack of copper and a severe Vitamin D deficiency, known as infantile rickets, which caused the bone fractures. She has a Facebook page, “Rickets an Epidemic,” dedicated to the condition and to mobilize support.

Dragotta said she exclusively breast fed Autumn, another risk factor for rickets due to the absence of Vitamin D in breast milk. Dragotta said she was also diagnosed with osteomalacia, an adult form of rickets.

For the past three years, the child has lived at an undisclosed location in New Hampshire with her biological father. Dragotta was allowed to see her daughter during supervised visits.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Kate MacDougall. Dragotta is being defended by Ronald Ranta while Amos is represented by Kevin Mitchell.

Opening arguments before Welch are scheduled for tomorrow morning.

Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.