Formal charges filed against father in 2017 abuse case

Chris Ward
Sarah Perry
Staff Writer

A Benton father was formally charged this week in connection with injuries his 2-month-old infant received in December.

On Dec. 7, Benton officers responded to Alcoa Road for a report of an unresponsive infant.

The child’s father, Chris Ward, 42, who is facing a Class Y felony charge for battery, told officers that he “accidentally bumped heads with the child” while bouncing his son on his knee the day before. Ward said he was trying to console the child who was crying because he was “gassy and having diarrhea,” according to an affidavit written by a Benton police officer.
Ward was reportedly “on baby duty” since his wife was tired and sleeping on the couch.

“That night, while cradling his son near his upper chest, his son began to cry so he began to lightly bounce him in the air to console him. During this time, Chris stated he lost his balance and lightly head-butted his son,” according to the affidavit.
Ward added that the infant’s nose and mouth began to swell and his nose bled slightly.

The next day, while giving his son a bath, Ward said he noticed the infant stopped breathing. Ward said he began performing CPR while his step-daughter called 911.
The child was taken to Saline Memorial Hospital and was later transferred to Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock.

Dr. Rachel Clingenpeel, of Arkansas Children’s Hospital, reportedly told Benton officers that the infant “was a victim of extreme, violent physical abuse,” according to the affidavit.
Clingenpeel said the infant suffered severe hemorrhages in both eyes with portions of the retinas being detached, multiple rib fractures with no signs of previous healing, bruising, swelling of the brain, continued seizures due to the high level of brain damage suffered, one confirmed brain bleed on the back right side of the infant’s head and one confirmed brain bleed on the front left side of the infant’s head, according to the affidavit.

She mentioned that the child “suffered physical abuse just prior to becoming unresponsive, ruling out the possibility that the accidental head-butt on Dec. 6, 2017, caused the injuries,” according to officers.
In the affidavit, the officer noted that he observed multiple holes and damage to several walls and doors in the bedroom and bathroom “which appeared as if someone had punched the walls/doors” at the home, according to the report.
Ward’s three step-children reportedly told investigators from the Arkansas State Police Crimes Against Children Division that they were afraid of Ward.

According to police, Ward has a history of violent behavior. He was convicted in 2014 of domestic battery and second-degree battery.
Saline County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Rebecca Bush, who is representing the state in this case, said the child is still alive, but doctors are unsure how the injuries will affect him in the future.