MICHIGAN CITY — A young boy told police he saw 24-year-old Brandon Bottom holding his 8-week-old son around the midsection, shaking the baby back and forth, one day before the infant was discovered with fatal injuries, police said.
"He described that he saw the baby's head rocking back and forth while the shaking took place," court charging documents in the case allege. "He said the baby was silent at the time he was in the apartment retrieving his homework, but that he heard the baby screaming by the time he was in the stairway outside the apartment to go to school."
The details of the alleged crime were unsealed ahead of Bottom's initial court appearance Tuesday morning before LaPorte County Superior Court Judge Michael Bergerson.
Bergerson entered preliminary pleas of not guilty on Bottom's behalf to felony charges of neglect of a dependent resulting in death of a child younger than 14, aggravated battery resulting in death of a child younger than 14 and battery resulting in death of a child younger than 14.
The two most severe charges carry potential prison terms of 20 to 40 years.
At Tuesday's hearing, a woman identifying herself as Bottom's mother told the judge she was meeting later in the day with an attorney on her son's behalf.
Bottom told police he was at home with the child about noon Feb. 1 when he noticed the baby felt "stiff."
The rural Michigan City man said he contacted his wife and mother of the child, who was at work. She said she received the voicemail nearly two hours later, and it did not seem urgent.
When she arrived home at 2:30 p.m., "she immediately observed (the baby) to be in a worse condition than described by Brandon L. Bottom," according to charging documents.
She said the baby was "very pale, with shallow breathing, and unable to open his eyes," police said.
The mother rushed the baby to a local hospital, and the baby was transported to University of Chicago Medicine's Comer Children’s Hospital because of the extent of his injuries. The pupil in his left eye was dilated and unresponsive, and the baby had bruising on his right side, court documents state.
The Chicago doctors said the baby "suffered traumatic brain injuries from abuse," and he was declared brain dead Feb. 5, police said. An autopsy Thursday found "several ribs exhibited calcification, indicating prior breaks that were now in healing stages, as well as what appeared to be a more recent rib break," court documents state.
The cause of death was determined to be "closed head injuries from blunt force trauma," and the manner of death was ruled a homicide, according to charging documents.
A 6-year-old sibling of the baby reportedly told police she observed instances of Bottom "being 'too hard' on the baby. She also described that Brandon Bottom treats the baby differently when mom ... was home," police said.
"She described how her father didn't do anything but play games on his PlayStation while the baby cries," police said.
Bottom, who is being held on a $100,000 cash only bond, has a bond hearing scheduled for Feb. 26. His trial was scheduled for July 15, with a preliminary hearing April 4.