Police in West Haven have charged a man with abusing a 3-year-old child.
Esteban Nieves, 22, of New Haven, was arrested following the start of a physical abuse case on Feb. 25.
Police said on Feb. 25, paramedics responded to the EconoLodge on Highland Street to bring the child to an emergency room. Nieves and his girlfriend checked in to the hotel last month with three children, all belonging to Nieves' girlfriend.
One night, the 3-year-old son complained of stomach pains. The mother, who police said did not know about the abuse, took him to the hospital, where serious bruising to the chest, abdomen and even a laceration to the liver were revealed.
Police investigated and things got a lot clearer when they viewed surveillance tapes where they say Nieves was caught delivering punishing blows to the child, all unprovoked.
Trauma physicians determined that the injuries were caused by an assault.
“Every child abuse case is tough. When you read these warrants and see what's alleged to have of occurred, it's hard to do,” said Kevin Lawlor, from the State’s Attorney’s Office.
Lawlor watched the video where it appears Nieves treated the child like a personal punching bag.
Police said it shows the child keeping to himself before, in a span of three minutes “Nieves slaps 3-year-old on the top of his head with his left hand while he simultaneously jabs at his chest with his right hand."
Other strikes caused the child to lose balance and double over in apparent pain. The arrest warrant said "Nieves then immediately takes his closed first right hand, sideways, pinky side down and strikes 3-year-old on top of his head."
Nieves was also caught multiple times taking a bottle away from the child's mouth and blowing cigarette smoke into it. They were disturbed because the boy did not cough or seem fazed by this at all, suggesting he was conditioned to it.
When confronted with the visual evidence, Nieves still denied all wrongdoing. Detectives said they developed information that led them to believe the case was criminal. Lawlor said the case was disturbing.
"As a human being we see evidence that is graphic and in any case that's tough to do," Lawlor said.
Nieves was charged with first-degree assault, third-degree assault, risk of injury to a minor and violation of probation.
Nieves faced a judge at Milford Superior Court on Wednesday.
Nieves' bond is $500,000. Eyewitness News learned he was on probation for an assault with a weapon back in 2012.
As for the child, there was concern in court on Wednesday that he would not survive these injuries. He's in serious condition at Yale-New Haven Hospital. His mother was not being charged, but all children were now in Connecticut Department of Children and Families custody.
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