EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

November 4, 2013

Couple guilty in child abuse to be sentenced today

LAWRENCE — A former North Andover couple convicted a week and a half ago of abusing Autumn, a 51/2-week-old girl, face sentencing in Superior Court today.

Steven Amos and Heather Dragotta were found guilty Oct. 24. Judge Richard Welch found Amos, 34, guilty on all charges, including multiple offenses of assault and battery on a child and permitting injury to a child.

Dragotta, 33, was found guilty of permitting injury to a child — a brain hemorrhage. Amos was taken into custody and Dragotta freed pending today’s sentencing by Welch. Dragotta is the mother of the little girl. Amos, her live-in boyfriend at the time of the abuse, is not the father.

Each charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison or 21/2 years in jail. The abuse occurred while the pair lived in North Andover.

Autumn suffered 21 fractures, at least some of them to her ribs, and a brain hemorrhage June 3, 2010. Dr. Paul Kleinman, a pediatric radiologist and child abuse expert from Children’s Hospital in Boston, testified her fractures were “inflicted.”

At the request of the defendants’ lawyers, Randy Gioia for Dragotta and Kevin Mitchell for Amos, the trial was held without a jury. Assistant District Attorneys Kate MacDougall and Jessica Strasnick prosecuted the case.

Charges were filed against Dragotta and Amos after Autumn was brought to Lawrence General Hospital and later examined at Children’s Hospital in Boston. Dragotta said her daughter suffered from rickets, whose symptoms include bones made brittle by a lack of copper and Vitamin D.

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

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.

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