Father says he didn't intend to hurt infant with 25 broken bones

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Police responding to Dell Children's Medical Center on Oct. 6, 2016, found a 2-month-old baby girl with more than two dozen broken bones throughout her body, including her pelvis and multiple ribs, according to an arrest warrant.

In addition, the baby had signs associated with "trauma to internal organs," the affidavit states.

Police have charged the girl's father, Joel Ortiz Rodriguez Jr., 20, with injury to a child, a state jail felony. Rodriguez helped watch the baby for the baby's mother, who has a full-time job and attends school, the affidavit states.

According to the affidavit, Rodriguez admitted to police he had been "too aggressive" with the baby and he "felt frustrated." Rodriguez told police he held the baby too tight and "heard her bones pop in her chest/back area." Rodriguez also told police that he got frustrated that the baby would not stop crying and he pushed down on the baby's pelvic area with his body weight and pushed her away.

When Rodriguez agreed to do an interview with KXAN, he said he had only found out about the charges an hour before.

"I just needed to control my emotions right then and there. I was changing her, and when I told them that, I didn't think that they would take it like I did it intentionally to break her bones. Yeah, I did push down on her, but I never intentionally tried to hurt her. I didn't think I was going to do all that stuff, but that's what they charged me with," he said.

Rodriguez said he could tell the baby was losing weight, and he tried to force her to eat by pushing a bottle in her mouth, the affidavit states.

The baby's mother told police she "noticed a crunching sound in her daughter's ribs" about two weeks prior to an October 2016 interview with police. At that time, the mother said the baby was beginning to have trouble eating, according to the affidavit.

"Me and the mom should have been more careful. We should have realized the injures. We should have realized when she was crying and wasn't eating. We should have known that there was something wrong," said Rodriguez. "We should have paid more attention to it, without a doubt, but I would never hurt the baby. Twenty five broken bones, I would never do that to [her]."

When police spoke with doctors at the hospital on Oct. 6, they were told the victim had numerous bone injuries both acute and healing, bruising over her body and a laceration to her tongue. The fractures included 17 to the ribs, both wrists and the pelvis. Four more breaks were found later, police said.

Doctor's found that the baby's body weight had dropped below the first percentile, and she was diagnosed with failure to thrive. The baby was not diagnosed with any bone or blood disorders that would account for her injuries, according to the affidavit.

Child Protective Services says they removed the child from the home in October and have been actively investigating. Since then, Rodriguez says he has been able to see his daughter every Wednesday. "When I first grab her she smiles immediately, she knows that I'm her dad. I just can't wait to get her back," he said.

Rodriguez says he's been meeting with a parenting coach, buying her new clothes and baby-proofing his home in hopes of gaining custody. "I actually got some cover guards and stuff for the table and for the walls, so when she starts walking and bumps her head or whatnot, then she will be protected," he said. "With how hard I work and with everything that I'm doing to get her back, I'm pretty confident that I'm going to get her back. The detectives can say whatever they want, they can think whatever they want, but I'm just going to keep doing what I've been doing since day one," said Rodriguez.

Editor's Note: All instances of the baby's name in the story have been removed.

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