July 25, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Jury to decide fate of man, 20, accused of breaking infant son’s leg

MEDINA — A Medina County jury is deliberating the case of a 20-year-old Elyria man accused of breaking his infant son’s leg.

The jury will decide if Christian VanMeter is guilty of felonious assault and child endangering. If convicted, he could face up to eight years in prison.

Christian VanMeter

Christian VanMeter

Prosecutors say VanMeter purposely abused his son last June because he was frustrated the boy wouldn’t stop crying.

VanMeter’s attorneys argued the chiropractor who cared for the baby was responsible for the injury.

Defense attorneys called Dr. Steven Baer to the stand Wednesday. Baer, who was labeled an expert in forensic chiropractic medicine, said no one could know what happened at the doctor’s office because they didn’t keep good enough records.

“The records do not meet a standard of care,” Baer said. “If it isn’t written, it isn’t done. That’s the standard in the medical profession.”

County Assistant Prosecutor Scott Salisbury accused Baer of suggesting malpractice on the doctors’ part.

“I’m not accusing anyone of malpractice,” Baer said. “I’m just commenting on the records: The record is insufficient and incomplete.”

Baer said if the chiropractor, Dr. Stephen Lash, would have kept exact records of what care was administered and why, he may not be accused now of breaking the boy’s leg.

During closing arguments Wednesday, Salisbury said the boy had a “spiral fracture” on his right femur and testimony showed that injury was indicative of abuse.

“It takes a tremendous amount of force to cause a spiral fracture,” Salisbury told the jury. “It takes an adult grabbing the lower leg and twisting.”

He said VanMeter was charged because the boy wouldn’t stop crying for almost three days after he was alone with his father.

The family said they had seen a chiropractor for the boy’s hip before and thought his crying was a symptom of that. As a result, they returned to the chiropractor.

During trial, though, defense attorneys pointed to inconsistencies between court testimony from the boy’s mother, 18-year-old Rebecca Haun, and her interviews with police a year ago.

Attorney Noah Munyer accused Haun of changing her story to incriminate VanMeter.

“Every part of her testimony that changed were significant changes against Mr. VanMeter,” Munyer said during closing arguments. “That’s the reason police record their interviews: So you can’t wait a year and change your story.”

Haun said on the stand that her son was crying hysterically after he allegedly was hurt and that chiropractors never touched her son when she took him into the office.

But police interviews showed she earlier had said the boy wasn’t crying any more than usual and that the doctor not only removed the boy from his car seat, but also manipulated his legs.

The prosecutor suggested Haun had been trying to protect VanMeter.

“At the time, she and Mr. VanMeter were still together,” Salisbury said. “It’s not inconceivable that’s why she said it. She didn’t want to get him in trouble.”

Salisbury asked the jury to return a guilty verdict.

“All of the evidence points to Christian Vanmeter,” he said. “None of it points toward Stephen Lash.”

Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or nglunt@medina-gazette.com. Follow him on Twitter @ngfalcon.

Nick Glunt About Nick Glunt

Nick Glunt primarily covers courts and crime in Medina County. He served The Gazette from September 2012 to December 2015. Contact him at (330) 721-4048 or via email at nglunt@medina-gazette.com.