ANOTHER CHILD LOST Leola father, charged in death of 4-month-old son, asked for prayers for the hospitalized boy on Facebook
BY DAN NEPHIN, Staff Writer
On Jan. 15, a Leola man asked for prayers on his Facebook page for his 4-month-old son.
"Nazareth is here with me in the Hershey Medical Hospital because yesterday we almost lost him due to asphyxiation from formula and a fever and dry cough," Jesus Manuel LaSanta wrote.
Doctors, he continued, "say that he has no marks in any way, nor could it be (from) something that happened in someone's hands."
But prosecutors say Nazareth's death the next day was caused by abusive head trauma at LaSanta's hands.
LaSanta, 27, of the 400 block of Brendon Drive, was charged Wednesday with homicide and endangering the welfare of a child.
He is being held without bail at Lancaster County Prison. It was not clear if he had an attorney.
LaSanta told East Lampeter detectives that he yanked Nazareth from his bouncy seat, struck his chest and slammed him into a mattress "in a rapid and violent manner, causing Nazareth LaSanta's head to strike the mattress" on the afternoon of Jan. 13, according to a criminal complaint.
Nazareth threw up and became unresponsive. LaSanta told detectives he began performing CPR, demonstrating for them on a doll at the police station, according to the complaint.
LaSanta told detectives he believed his actions caused his son's death, according to the complaint.
The complaint also indicates a forensic pathologist found evidence of "healing rib fractures present in multiple ribs."
District Attorney Craig Stedman said he could not answer if that meant the fractures were recent or old.
At a news conference Thursday, Stedman lamented the county's latest case of injuries and death involving children and was unable to say how many there have been recently.
"The sad thing is I've lost count. And we don't have that many people in Lancaster County that I should lose count of how many infant homicides and serious assaults that we have," he said. "I can't keep track of them now, and that's completely discouraging."
While parenting can be stressful, he said, there are other options for handling anger.
"Regardless of what's going on, what is the excuse for doing this to an infant, a 4-month-old? Tell me what's more important than preserving the life of your own child? You've got a duty to provide safety, and if you're so angry that you can't control yourself … you've got to walk away," he said.
A stressed parent could hand a child to another person so they can cool off or go to a neighbor or contact an agency for help, he said.
Nazareth's mother and another family member were home at the time, but Stedman wouldn't say if anyone saw what happened. The mother, Dedour Elgarhy, isn't facing charges, he said.
Staff Writer Enelly Betancourt contributed to this story.