Haverstraw father charged in death of 5-month-old daughter
By Steve Lieberman • firstname.lastname@example.org • January 18, 2011
HAVERSTRAW — A 41-year-old father was charged Monday with beating his 5-month-old daughter to death, fracturing the tiny baby's skull and ribs.
Michael A. Aviles stood hunched over, his hands cuffed behind his back, as Haverstraw Town Justice John K. Grant read the felony complaint accusing him of second-degree murder in the killing of Michelle Aviles, born Aug. 3.
"The defendant did with blunt force trauma to the head, body and torso, including but not limited to, cause the following injuries: fracture, bruising, swelling to the brain and skull, bruising and fractures to the rib cage, thereby causing the death of said child," Grant said.
Haverstraw police and Rockland prosecutors declined to comment on the details of the baby's death, such as whether the newborn was beaten by hand or with an object.
Lt. Martin Lund said after court that the investigation into the circumstances of the baby's death was continuing.
Lund gave a short statement describing the cause of the baby's death and how the police got involved. Rockland District Attorney Thomas Zugibe, who attended the arraignment with three of his prosecutors, declined to comment, as did Police Chief Charles Miller.
The heavy-set Haverstraw village resident's only comment in court was a quiet "Yes," when he was asked to confirm his name.
A Haverstraw police detective accused Aviles of beating his daughter to death at the family's apartment on Hudson Avenue between noon Saturday and 4 a.m. Sunday. The lead detective, Terry Collazo, signed the felony complaint.
From medical personnel at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, Haverstraw police learned the baby had suffered serious injuries.. The baby had first been taken to Nyack Hospital but was later transferred to Westchester.
Lund said after the court arraignment that Haverstraw police were called about the baby's injuries at 10:15 a.m. Sunday.
"They told us Michele Aviles suffered life-threatening injuries," Lund said.
The detective and prosecutors went to the hospital, only to be told the baby died from her injuries at 11:35 a.m.
Lund said the baby's death led detectives and prosecutors to an apartment at 153 Hudson Ave. in Haverstraw village.
The infant's death marked the first homicide in Rockland this year and the town's first since 2007.
Michael Aviles lived in the rear apartment of the red-brick house with the baby and her mother, who was his girlfriend, authorities said.
No one answered the door at the family's home Monday afternoon.
A neighbor said she believed three families lived in the house along the dead-end portion of Hudson Avenue. She said she didn't know Aviles or any of the families living in the house.
The Sheriff's Department Bureau of Criminal Investigation also went to the house and searched for evidence along with the Rockland Computer Crimes Task Force.
The Westchester County Medical Examiner's Office conducted an autopsy on the baby Monday and police arrested Michael Aviles after the office ruled the child's death a homicide, authorities said.
Zugibe said he attended the autopsy in Westchester. Zugibe's father, Dr. Frederick Zugibe, was Rockland's medical examiner for three decades.
"Based on the medical examiner's determination this was a homicide and the death of Michele Aviles came from massive blunt force trauma, we brought a second-degree charge" against Michael Aviles, Lund said.
Aviles didn't enter a plea to the felony charge when arraigned before Grant. Prosecutors Patricia Gunning and Jennifer Parietti, two senior district attorneys with the office's special victims unit, presented the charges.
Grant told Aviles that he would automatically be held without bail since a town and village justice cannot set bail on murder and other top felony counts.
Two Haverstraw officers, Sgt. Ken Beyer and Officer David Kryger, brought Aviles to court and took him back to the town lockup for transfer to the county jail in New City.
Grant told Aviles that the Rockland Public Defender's Office would interview him in jail and represent him if he met financial guidelines and could not afford an attorney.
Aviles faces a preliminary felony hearing Friday afternoon during which the prosecution must present minimal evidence to continue holding him in custody. A grand jury could return an indictment, canceling the Friday hearing and moving the case from the town court's jurisdiction to a higher court, such as Rockland County Court.
The murder charge carries a prison sentence upon conviction of 15 to 25 years to life in prison.
Children whose recent deaths are being investigated:
Michelle Aviles: 5 months old, Haverstraw. Her father, Michael A. Aviles, is accused in court papers of beating her to death, fracturing her skull and ribs.
Khalil Leak: 2 years old, New Rochelle. The boy stopped breathing and was taken by ambulance to Sound Shore Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. Court records of a prior abuse case against the parents show he suffered from a host of pre-existing health conditions.
Unidentified Bronx girl: 11 days old. She stopped breathing at her paternal grandmother's home. No signs of trauma were evident.