Posted on Fri, Mar. 19, 2004
ST. PAUL: Father charged in baby's death
Man recounts frustrations with sick son
BY MARA H. GOTTFRIED
A St. Paul man charged Thursday with murder in the death of his 6-month-old son
told investigators he "freaked out" and intentionally dropped the child after
the infant soiled himself, a towel and the floor.
When Steven D. Showcatally brought Gustavo Adolpho Hunt, whom he and his wife
adopted from Guatemala in November, to St. Paul Children's Hospital on Tuesday,
the baby had multiple skull fractures and died less than three hours later,
according to the Ramsey County attorney's office complaint charging Showcatally
with second-degree unintentional murder.
The complaint gave this account:
Showcatally, 34, said he picked up Gustavo from day care after 3 p.m. Tuesday.
The day-care staff gave Showcatally a bag of Gustavo's soiled clothes because,
as Showcatally told investigators, the boy had "messed his outfit with diarrhea
At the family home at 2023 Grand Ave., Showcatally noticed Gustavo had soiled
himself again and the fecal material was all over his back.
Showcatally bathed Gustavo and wrapped him in a towel, but the baby had a bowel
movement on the towel. Showcatally put Gustavo on a bedroom floor and while he
went to get a clean towel, the baby had another bowel movement on the floor.
"I freaked out, well, I didn't freak out," Showcatally told officers,
explaining that he threw the towel.
Showcatally prepared to give Gustavo another bath and held the boy's buttocks
under the faucet, "hosing him down." He said he then accidentally dropped
Gustavo, whose head hit the bottom of the tub.
At about 5 p.m., Showcatally called his wife, Gail Hunt, and told her there had
been an accident in the bathtub, that Gustavo's head was swelling and that she
needed to come home .
Hunt told Showcatally to take Gustavo to the hospital and said she would meet
him there. Showcatally kept telling Hunt he was sorry, she told investigators.
After arriving at the hospital with Gustavo at about 5:20 p.m., the boy was
taken to the operating room at 6:35 p.m., but he died shortly before 8 p.m.
A scan of Gustavo's head showed severe head injuries that were inconsistent
with Showcatally's explanation of the injuries and St. Paul police were called
to the hospital.
In addition to skull fractures, an autopsy found multiple subgaleal
hemorrhages, which is blood between the scalp and skull. The Ramsey County
medical examiner's office determined the cause of death to be craniocerebral
injuries — traumatic injuries that can involve the brain, cranial nerves and
other structures — and the manner of death to be homicide.
Showcatally and Hunt volunteered to go with police to give statements.
Showcatally described his work situation as troubled.
When investigators told him that doctors said the severity of Gustavo's
injuries was inconsistent with being dropped four or five feet, "he hung his
head and nodded. He said he was sure what the doctors said was true. He said he
Showcatally told investigators that he dropped Gustavo accidentally, but then
twice more intentionally. Afterward, he said he noticed the baby's eyes were
twitching and rolling back in his head and he called his wife.
Showcatally is being held in the Ramsey County jail. His first court appearance
is scheduled for today.
Showcatally and Hunt had been trying to adopt a child for four years when they
brought Gustavo home.
Help available for stressed parents
For parents who feel overwhelmed with their children, a University of Minnesota
professor says, "it's important to recognize you're frustrated and recognize
you're not alone."
Try to "recognize you're having difficulty handling the strains and stresses
that parenthood inevitably brings with it," said Susan J. Wells, the University
of Minnesota's Gamble-Skogmo Professor in Child Welfare. "If you recognize it,
you can get help and training, you can take a break while someone watches the
child, you can take a mental break if you can't remove yourself from the
situation. It's the old count-to-10 method."
Commenting on the allegations in this week's child death in St. Paul, Wells
said, "It's not unusual that you would get this kind of description where a
parent just loses it due to mounting frustrations that they can't handle."
Help can be found through the United Way's First Call for Help by calling
651-291-0211. To locate a parent support group, call Prevent Child Abuse
Minnesota at 651-523-0099. Resources for parents by county can be found at
— Mara H. Gottfried
Mara H. Gottfried can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or
mom to Juliette, 8, adopted from China