PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A Providence couple appeared in court Tuesday after city police said their infant son was hospitalized with critical injuries including more than a dozen fractures to the arms, legs, ribs and skull.
Police said Olalekan Olawusi, 40, called 911 on Monday afternoon from his Constitution Street home to report that his child was “dying.” The baby, Tobiloba Olawusi, was not breathing and had to be resuscitated by rescue crews, according to Special Assistant Attorney General Shannon Signore, the chief of the Child Abuse Unit.
“The defendant’s wife indicated that the defendant admitted to biting his baby, and warned him on numerous occasions that pulling the baby’s legs to make him grow strong was not the correct way to handle a baby,” Signore said.
Signore said the 3-month-old was found to have “at least 12 healing fractures, a skull fracture and CML fractures of both the arms and legs.”
At last check, police said Olawusi was in “very critical” condition and fighting for his life at Hasbro Children’s Hospital.
The father, Olalekan Olawusi, is charged with 1st and 2nd degree child abuse, felonies that carry up to 20 and 10 years in prison, respectively. The 1st degree charge is for the broken bones, while the 2nd degree charge is for the bite marks on the infant. He was arraigned in district court Tuesday and his bail was set at $40,000 with surety, provided he surrender his passport.
The baby’s mother, Arinola Olawusi, is charged with cruelty to or neglect of a child, which carries up to five years. She was arraigned in family court Tuesday where prosecutors said she knew about her husband’s alleged abusive behavior and failed to report him to the authorities. Her bail was set at $10,000 with surety, also provided she surrender her passport. Prosecutors said the couple is originally from Nigeria.
Police told Eyewitness News that Arinola Olawusi’s first child was taken from her at birth by the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF). A spokesman for DCYF confirmed that the older sibling is currently living with a relative in foster care, but declined to comment on why the family was investigated, citing privacy laws.
In court, Bruce Katz, the court-appointed guardian ad-litem for Tobiloba, said DCYF visited the hospital at the time of Tobiloba’s birth, and ordered his mother Arinola not to have unsupervised contact with him. The father, Olalekan, was permitted to be the child’s guardian, and care for him at the family home on Constitution Street.
According to prosecutors, Arinola did spend time alone with the baby when the father wasn’t home, in violation of DCYF’s order. But it was the father who ultimately caused bodily harm to the infant, the state alleges.
Providence Police Major David Lapatin said it can be difficult to catch cases of child abuse when the child is too young to speak.
“There are mechanisms that we have in place in the state, in the city, to hopefully root out any offenders that are hurting children,” Lapatin said Tuesday. “Hardest to find are the ones that hurt their own, because it’s usually done in the cover of their own house.”
Lapatin said more charges are possible.
DCYF is investigating the case, which they call a “near-fatality,” and the Office of the Child Advocate has been notified.
Neither parent had posted bail as of Tuesday afternoon. If they are released, they are both ordered to stay away from the baby.