Presented with two possible explanations for how a Spokane infant suffered up to 20 fractures, a jury decided Friday that the father’s abuse was to blame.
After deliberating for parts of two days following a two-week trial, the jury convicted 26-year-old Tyson J. Romaneschi of first-degree assault of a child and two misdemeanor counts of violating a protection order. The jury failed to reach a unanimous decision on a fourth charge alleging that Romaneschi had asked the infant’s mother to change her testimony.
“We are disappointed,” defense attorney Donald Richter said after the decision. “We respect the jury’s verdict, but we disagree.”
The defense had argued that the 2-month-old baby had weak bones because of a misdiagnosed medical condition.
Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Kelly Fitzgerald, who stood in for the verdict for colleague Eugene Cruz, said her office would be seeking an exceptional sentence for Romaneschi, who faces between eight and 10 years in prison at his sentencing Sept. 13.
Fitzgerald also asked Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno to hold Romaneschi in jail pending sentencing. However, Moreno allowed Romaneschi to remain free on his existing $100,000 bond.
The case began in February 2012 when the girl’s mother, Shayna Tipton, took infant daughter Ellyana to a doctor because of a fever. The baby had a urinary tract infection, was rushed to a hospital and was given an X-ray, which revealed her broken ribs.
Doctors ordered more X-rays that revealed up to 20 broken bones in various stages of healing in the baby’s ribs, arm and leg, Cruz said in opening statements.
Tipton, who had been living with Romaneschi, said she told investigators she had no idea how her daughter sustained the injuries. But she told police and testified during the trial that she remembers her daughter crying every time Romaneschi tried to hold her.
Romaneschi told police essentially the same thing during an interview with Detectives Neil Gallion and Jan Pogachar. Romaneschi said he didn’t intentionally hurt his child but that he squeezed her to make her cry and that he has frustration problems.
Detectives noted that Romaneschi grew angry during the interview “and that we had to calm him down several times,” according to court records.
But Richter, the defense attorney, brought in a medical expert who testified that Ellyana suffered a classic case of rickets, caused by a vitamin D deficiency, which can cause infant bones to fracture during birth and could have explained their various stages of healing.
Richter told the jury he didn’t blame Spokane police detectives for seeking to protect the child from what appeared to be “horrific child abuse. But no one ever saw Tyson assault his daughter,” Richter said.
Cruz told the jury during closing arguments on Wednesday that Romaneschi had limited parenting skills and he learned the only way he could get his infant daughter to sleep was by squeezing her until she cried.
“She would cry herself to sleep faster than holding her … or cuddling her. That was just too much parenting for him,” Cruz said during closing arguments. “Others said she seemed to be a good child, except for when he was in the hands of her father.
“You hold him accountable for those crimes,” Cruz asked the jury.