Ryan A. Gasior has been convicted or accused of abusing his 21-year-old girlfriend twice in the past 13 months. The first came after the couple had been dating just four months.
Now, the Eagan man, also 21, is charged with felony malicious punishment of a child and first- and third-degree assault after his 7-week-old son was found to have bleeding on the brain, seven broken ribs, and new and healing leg fractures.
Gasior initially offered investigators excuse after excuse for how the infant sustained the injuries, even jumping from his chair in anger with a clenched fist during an interview, police say. Ultimately, he admitted shaking the baby and causing the broken bones, saying “he was stressed at work and frustrated with how [his girlfriend] acted toward him,” according to a criminal complaint filed last week in Dakota County District Court.
At a court hearing before District Judge Jerome Abrams on Tuesday, prosecutors added the charge of first-degree assault and bail was set at $500,000, or $300,000 with conditions. Defense attorneys plan to argue against the new charge at a hearing April 19. Trial is set for May 13.
Ann Sheridan, director of violence prevention for the Dakota County nonprofit group 360 Communities, said abusers sometimes turn their violence toward children as a way to control their partner. “Hurting your children, that is like the ultimate stab wound,” Sheridan said.
Doctors can’t predict how the baby’s injuries might affect him later in life, but for now, “he’s amazing,” said his mother, Jessica, who did not want her last name used because she fears for her children’s privacy. “He’s pulled through with no problems whatsoever. He’s a tough little boy.”
According to court documents, the first incident of abuse by Gasior happened May 4 as Jessica was walking home from the store with her 3-year-old son. She and Gasior argued when he didn’t pick her up at work on time. He pulled up next to her in the parking lot and began yelling at her. When she didn’t respond, he got out of the car, threw her to the ground and put her in a choke hold.
In October, Gasior pleaded guilty to domestic assault by strangulation, a felony. He served 33 days in jail; the judge stayed 322 more days and put him on probation for two years.
Jessica said that a week after Gasior was arrested, she found out she was pregnant. Gasior wanted to be involved, she said, and they made plans to work on their relationship and improve their communication so there wouldn’t be a second incident.
Jessica said she had to return to work when the baby was just 2½ weeks old. Initially, she didn’t leave Gasior alone with the baby, but eventually, he watched the baby for several hours at a time.
On Feb. 15, police were called to her apartment in Eagan. According to the complaint, Gasior tried to strangle Jessica after they argued about her having contact on a social network with someone he didn’t like. He was again charged with domestic assault by strangulation, a felony, and two gross misdemeanors: domestic assault and violation of a no-contact order.
The complaint said Jessica told police she’d sensed something was wrong with the baby in late January, but doctors found nothing amiss. The feeling persisted and on Feb. 17, the baby was taken to the ER, where doctors found new and healing femur fractures. Two days later, a CT scan showed bleeding on both sides of his brain. On March 4, the broken ribs were discovered.
Shelley Johnson Cline, executive director of St. Paul Intervention, who has no involvement in this case, advised women who find themselves in an abusive situation — with or without children — to trust their instincts and not be afraid to reach out for help.
Jessica said she’s glad she did trust her instincts, even though both her sons were taken away for a short time. They’re back with her now, she said, and vowed “There will never be another opportunity for [the baby] to go through what he’s gone through.”