A Madras woman is in jail on suspicion of choking her baby son with a cell phone charging cable, though she told police the boy was injured when he became tangled in her hair.
Maryann Lola Stahi, 37, was arrested July 24 on suspicion of first-degree criminal mistreatment and third-degree assault and remains an inmate of the Jefferson County jail.
The investigation began when Stahi’s mother-in-law took her grandson to doctors with a gruesome injury — a half-centimeter wide ligature mark around the circumference of his neck, according to a search warrant request filed last week in Jefferson County Circuit Court.
The mother-in-law told police she was alarmed when she first saw the boy’s injury. But Stahi allegedly told the woman she was making a “big deal out of nothing,” wrote Madras Police Sgt. Steve Webb in the court document.
With Stahi not willing to seek medical help, the grandmother devised a ruse, telling Stahi she was taking her son to the store to buy batteries for her smoke detectors. She instead went to St. Charles Madras, where police were called.
The grandmother told police Stahi lives in a duplex with the baby son and two teenage children.
The grandmother’s son — the children’s father — is currently in prison, she said.
To Webb, the mark on the boy’s neck looked similar to marks on a person who attempted suicide, or been strangled with something other than the attacker’s hands.
“I know that a mark such as this is caused when an item (cord, rope, belt, etc.) is placed around a person’s neck and tightened,” Webb wrote in the court document.
Webb photographed the boy’s injuries.
The grandmother next showed him photos from the day before. They showed the boy was not injured the day before, according to the court document.
Webb and an employee of the Department of Human Services then went to Stahi’s residence. She let them in, and they first interviewed Stahi’s other children. Her 13-year-old daughter reportedly did not look up from her video game as Webb questioned her, though her eyes welled up with tears, Webb wrote.
Webb asked Stahi how her son was injured. She told him she’d taken a sleeping pill and was awakened at 3 a.m. to find boy screaming and “tangled in her hair.”
“I told her that her comment about (the boy) getting caught in her hair was not plausible,” Webb said. “I told Stahi I was trying to understand how this had occurred.”
Stahi didn’t answer, according to the court document.
Before Webb left, Stahi took him upstairs and showed him a clump of hair on the floor and told him it was from the incident. To Webb’s eyes it looked like a clump of hair that would have been cleaned from a hairbrush, he wrote.
Three days later, Webb spoke with Nancy Heavlin, medical director at the KIDS Center in Bend, which assists local authorities investigating child-abuse cases. Heavlin said the boy had petechiae, caused when a person is strangled hard enough that blood vessels rupture.
Stahi was asked to come to the Madras Police Department to answer more questions.
She allegedly repeated the story of being awoken by her screaming son “stuck” in her hair.
They talked about the history of domestic violence and alcoholism in Stahi’s family, Webb wrote.
“It should be noted that as I spoke with Stahi I detected the odor of an alcoholic beverage,” Webb said.
Webb confronted her about his belief she was lying to him. She maintained she didn’t strangle her son, he wrote.
At this point, Webb arrested her. As she was being booked into the Jefferson County jail, she allegedly provided a breath sample that showed her blood alcohol level was 0.07%.
Three days after Stahi’s arrest, Webb was looking at photos he took inside Stahi’s house when he interviewed her. He noticed several phone cords on a nightstand next to her bed.
“Based on the injury to (the boy’s) neck, I believe that the ligature mark was caused by something similar to a phone cord,” Webb wrote.
Stahi’s next court date is Aug. 1.
— Reporter: 541-383-0325, firstname.lastname@example.org