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Saturday, January 17th, 2009

Celina man charged in death of baby

By Shelley Grieshop
A 25-year-old Celina man has been charged in the death of his 11-month-old stepchild who died early Friday morning at a Dayton hospital from injuries sustained Wednesday evening.
Jason Thomas was arrested by Celina Police on Thursday and charged with reckless homicide, a third-degree felony, and felonious assault, a second-degree felony, in the death of Kole Mathew Atkins of St. Marys.
The infant is the son of Sydney Stienecker and James Mathew Atkins, 608 Jay St., St. Marys. Thomas married the child's mother one month ago, police said.
According to Celina Police, the baby suffered extensive injuries to his head, body and extremities, including broken bones and blunt trauma. Police received a 911 call about 7 p.m. Wednesday from a home at 119 Garman Ave., Celina, concerning a non-breathing baby. A squad took the child to Mercer County Community Hospital, Coldwater, and later to Children's Medical Center, Dayton.
Police Chief Dave Slusser said a decision was made late Thursday night to remove the child from life support. He reportedly died hours later.
Police believe Thomas was the only person in the Garman Avenue home when the child was injured. Thomas initially told police the baby had fallen out of a playpen and was found unresponsive and not breathing. However, information gathered later by squad personnel, doctors and an autopsy concluded the child's injuries were due to abuse, Slusser said.
Slusser said prior to Thomas' arrest on Thursday, officers spoke to his mother who believed her son was suicidal. She said he feared being blamed for the child's death. Later that day, while searching for Thomas, police were notified he was in Swamp College Cemetery in rural Celina threatening to hurt himself with a knife.
Police and Mercer County Sheriff's deputies responded to the scene and discovered Thomas' family members had talked him into giving up the knife, Slusser said. He was transferred to the Coldwater hospital where he was treated then released. Following a mental health interview, Thomas was interrogated by police and then arrested and charged for abusing the child.
After police were notified Friday of the baby's death, they again interviewed Thomas. Prior to his court appearance later that day, Thomas reportedly admitted to officers he "shook the baby" on Wednesday evening, Slusser said.
Thomas' case likely will be presented to a grand jury for a possible indictment. A pretrial hearing is set for Jan. 23.
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