A man who rammed his young son’s head into a door jamb in 2016 was sentenced Wednesday to 7 1/2 years in prison after violating probation.
The boy was 1 year old when the crime was committed. Nathan Anthony Fitzgerald wanted to punish his son because he was upset that the child spilled ranch dressing on him, Deputy District Attorney Dawn Buzzard said.
Fitzgerald, 28, was convicted last summer of second-degree assault and attempt to commit a Class B felony in connection with the case. Fitzgerald was later sentenced to 60 months of probation for the assault charge but agreed — as part of a plea deal with the district attorney’s office — to a 7 1/2-year prison sentence if he violated probation.
Fitzgerald’s most recent known address is in Scappoose. During an appointment with the Columbia County Department of Community Justice in October, he walked out after being told he needed to provide a urine sample, according to court documents. A warrant was later issued for his arrest.
The second charge for which he was convicted — originally attempted assault — was based on another incident in 2016. Fitzgerald covered the child’s mouth with his hand, attempting to impede his breathing after he began making noise. Fitzgerald was sentenced to eight months in jail for that conviction.
Fitzgerald originally was also charged with third-degree assault — for assaulting a child under the age of 10 — and strangulation before agreeing to the plea deal. Based on witness testimony and the injuries sustained by the child, officials believe Fitzgerald also covered his mouth with a pillow in a separate incident, Buzzard said.
The man’s wife, who witnessed the incidents, discussed what she saw with her friend, an off-duty nurse. “It’s difficult sometimes for people to talk to police about crimes committed by their spouses,” Buzzard said.
Following state law, the nurse reported the incidents to the Department of Human Services, Buzzard said. When representatives from the department spoke to Fitzgerald, he said a mark on the child’s forehead sustained in the attack was only a rash.
“They see a lot of things and get lied to a lot, but this could have ended badly,” Buzzard said.
But after hearing about the case, Seaside Detective Guy Knight interviewed Fitzgerald’s wife, who then detailed the crimes. By June of 2016, Fitzgerald was indicted.
“It’s a pretty extraordinary case,” Buzzard said. “Without Detective Guy Knight following up on it, we could have ended up with a dead kid.”