Arizona man facing charges after three babies suffer broken ribs

Arizona man facing charges after three babies suffer broken ribs
Dontae Lavvone Johnson told police he hurt his kids, claiming he was "overwhelmed and overly frustrated by having to care for several children at the same while his wife was gone." (Source: Phoenix Police Department)

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- A west Phoenix father faces six felony child abuse charges after his three children, all under age 2, were found to have multiple injuries, including broken ribs, a lacerated liver and brain bleeds, police said.

Police say Dontae Lavvone Johnson, 29, admitted to hurting his kids, claiming he was "overwhelmed and overly frustrated by having to care for several children at the same while his wife was gone."

On Feb. 6, police were called to Phoenix Children's Hospital after staffers there reported a case of possible child abuse. Apparently, the mother of a 3-month-old girl said she had come home from a brief trip to find her daughter "not eating, stoic and not tracking with her eyes."

So she called for help, and the baby was rushed to the hospital in critical condition. Once there, police say doctors found the infant had 13 broken ribs, brain bleeds and a lacerated liver.

Police say the child (and her two siblings) had been left alone in the care of their father, Johnson, while their mother went away for several days.

After the baby girl's injuries were discovered, her two siblings, a 3-month-old twin and an 18-month-old boy, were also brought to Phoenix Children's Hospital for evaluation. The baby girl's twin was also found to have skull fractures, brain bleeds, several broken ribs and a lacerated liver. The 18-month-old boy reportedly had several broken ribs that were in different stages of healing.

During a police interview with Johnson, he at first tried to explain away the first baby's injuries by saying he "accidentally dropped" her on the bathroom floor in the middle of the night, according to the police report. But the report also indicates that he later changed his story and "made several admissions to account for all the victims' injuries."

Police say Johnson admitted to, on several occasions, "squeezing Victim One and shaking her violently back and forth." The police report says he described the shaking "as too hard and observed Victim One's head flying back and forth each time he shook her violently."

As for the 18-month-old boy, Johnson admitted to, on several occasions, striking him "with an open hand strike on his upper back, lower back, rib cage area and lower legs," according to the police report. Police say he also admitted "popping" the boy too hard on several occasions.

"The defendant admitted to being overly frustrated and taking out his stress and frustrations on his children," according to the police report. "During the course of the interview, the defendant admitted to committing two counts of child abuse per victim, for a total of six counts of child abuse."

Johnson was arrested Wednesday at his apartment near 83rd Avenue and McDowell Road. He was then booked into the Fourth Avenue jail in Phoenix. His bail was set at $25,000. The police report indicates he was involved with previous child abuse incidents in California.

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