Baby Chandler, the 6-month-old who died Sunday while in his father's care, suffered multiple brain injuries, causing his death, according to local law enforcement officials.
Jeffrey L. Deats, 27, of Olyn Avenue, Batavia, has been charged with manslaughter in the second degree and is currently being held in the Genesee County Jail.
In a press conference this morning, District Attorney Lawrence Friedman said the charge stems from the belief that Deats acted recklessly and with disregard for the possible harm of his actions. He said at this time there's no evidence to indicate that Deats intended to cause harm or death to Chandler.
Batavia PD Chief Shawn Heubusch said the preliminary report from the Monroe County Medical Examiner's Office indicates brain injuries.
The baby is undergoing a full skeletal, neurological and dental exam at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester.
According to court documents, Deats made a long statement to police about his relationship with Chandler's mother and his time with Chandler, including during this past weekend.
He later made a second statement and told a detective that he had "not told the entire truth."
He said, "I remember that around 9 or 9:30 p.m., I was walking down the stairs with Chandler in my arms and I was wearing flip-flops. As I started to go down the stairs, my foot slipped and I began to fall. When I fell, the back of my head hit the stairs really hard. When I got to the last three steps, I rolled and I tried to protect Chandler. As we were falling, Chandler's head was going back and forth really bad. At no times did I tell my mother what happened. I think she was in her room sleeping, but I'm not sure. I did not want to tell anyone that I had messed up because they would think bad of me."
In a statement to police, the baby's grandmother, Jacquelyn Deats, said she heard Chandler crying off and on throughout the night and that she woke up around 5:30 a.m. Sunday morning because she was thinking about going to church.
A half hour later, she said, she heard Chandler crying loudly, like he was screaming.
"I heard Jeff stomping down the stairs and he was calling, 'mom, mom' several times," Jacquelyn Deats said. "He sounded very upset. I said that I was in the bathroom. When I came out, Jeff was holding Chandler so that Chandler's head was on Jeff's shoulder. Jeff said, 'He's been up all night and I need to sleep.' Jeff was really upset. He laid Chandler on the couch and said, 'Now, you go to sleep you god damn bastard,' and he turned around and went upstairs."
She went on, "when I looked at the baby, I knew something was wrong. He was breathing very slow, shallow and labored breaths. I was praying that he was going to be okay."
She said first that she didn't call for help because she was afraid what Jeff would do. That statement is scratched out and she said she was hoping the baby would calm down.
"I picked Chandler up and when I touched his hands and feet, they were cold. I tried to warm them up and I said, 'please warm up,'" she said. "I was just praying he would be okay. I laid Chandler back on the couch. Chandler did not move for the entire time he was on the couch. He also had his eyes closed the entire time."
She said she called up to Jeff at 8:30 a.m. and Jeff told her to wake him up at 9:30 a.m.
When Jeff came down at 9:30, they noticed Chandler wasn't breathing, she said. Jeff apparently tried mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and Jacquelyn called 9-1-1.
"Before I left for the hospital, Jeff told me, 'you need to tell everyone that you were with me the entire time,' " she said.
In a second statement, Jacquelyn Deats said he had no knowledge of Chandler being dropped or anybody slipping and falling while holding him or of anybody falling down the stairs.
She also said in the same statement that Jeff came downstairs about 6:05 a.m., "and I heard him 'thump' down the stairs."
"When he came downstairs he was out of breath and disheveled," she wrote. "I think it is possible that he might have fallen then. Chandler was all disheveled and his shirt was up to about the middle of his torso and there were red marks on his stomach that looked like it was from Jeff holding him really tight. If anybody had fallen down the stairs any other time, I would have heard it."
The mother of Chandler is identified as Michelle Zuch. In his statement, Jeff Deats said he met Zuch through Facebook.
They first time they met in person, they went to the sandwash off Cedar Street.
Three weeks later, Deats said she texted him and said they needed to talk. She came to Batavia and told him she was pregnant.
"We fought every day over the phone," Deats said. "Michelle would tell me that it was my child, then say it wasn't. This went on until just recently."
He said after DNA testing, Zuch told him he was the father.
Sometime later, Zuch brought Chandler to Batavia for a visit with Deats.
"After a while, I started having Chandler on Sundays," Deats said. "Chandler was around four months old when this started happening. I would bring him back on Sunday night and Michelle would say I wasn't going to see him anymore. Michelle would not say why. She would just call me a deadbeat father."
He said before this last visit, Michelle tried to back out of letting Chandler visit on Sunday, then after further conversation she said, "why don't you just take him for an overnight," Deats said.
Deats and his mother picked him up Saturday around 9 a.m., Saturday, according to the statement.
"Chandler looked perfectly fine when I picked him up," he said. "There may have been a little bruise on his left or right thumb, but I'm not sure."
When they stopped for gas in Pembroke, Deats said he was in the back seat with Chandler watching him play with a toy.
"It was orange and made of hard plastic," he said. "The toy swung around and bashed him the mouth. Chandler started crying, but I was able to calm him down. I looked and saw that his lower tooth was missing and his mouth was bleeding. I looked for the tooth in the car, but I could not find it."
He said he called Zuch and Zuch wanted the baby returned immediately.
"I told her he would be fine at my house," he said.
Twenty minutes after getting home, Zuch showed up at the house and so did the police.
The police entered the house, checked out Chandler, he said, and after a brief interview, Deats said they told him they didn't see anything wrong.
He told police that Zuch was welcome to stay and make sure the child was fine, and Zuch did stay and visit for a while, he said.
He and Zuch went to Dunkin' Donuts with two friends.
Later, at home, Zuch visited longer. Then Deats said he gave Chandler a bath and the baby seemed fine. He put new clothes on him and they "just hung out the rest of the day."
Zuch left around 1 p.m.
His mother started watching Chandler around 3:45 p.m. while Deats went upstairs with a friend. He left for work at 8:20 p.m.
"When I got home, mom was on the couch with the dog watching TV," Deats said. "I took a picture of Chandler and sent it to Michelle. Michelle had been blowing up my phone asking for a picture, that's why I did it."
He said he checked Chandler's diaper and it was fine, and then he made him a bottle.
"I brought him upstairs with his bouncy chair," he said. "Michelle had told me that he doesn't fall asleep in people's arms or in the bed, so I put him in his bouncy chair. I could tell he was tired because he was throwing his little tired whine. I picked him up and he fell asleep in his (sic) arms."
He said Chandler woke a little when he laid him down, then went back to sleep in five minutes.
His mother then went upstairs to watch Chandler and Deats left the house with a friend. He returned about 20 minutes later and found Chandler still asleep upstairs.
He and a friend watched the Heisman Trophy presentation and then a documentary on U2.
Shortly after that, Chandler woke up.
"Chandler was making fussing noises," Deats said. "He then started to cry. I picked him up and sat him on my left knee about five minutes. He was still fussing so I put him in my arms and tried giving him a bottle. He was till fussing and pushing it away. I then put him back in his bouncy chair, facing the TV. He seemed fine then. I would rock the chair with my hand or sometimes my foot."
His friend left about 2 a.m.
"Chandler would fuss every time it went to commercial or when I would stop rocking him."
He tried giving Chandler a bottle, but Chandler spit it up four or five times.
He changed Chandler's clothes and his own clothes, he said.
For the next few hours, Deats said Chandler was in and out of his bouncy chair and fussing on and off.
After his mom got up, he said he brought Chandler downstairs and laid him on the couch. He said he asked his mom to watch him for a couple of hours so he could get some sleep.
"He was rubbing his head and yawning and making little talking noises," Deats said. "I tucked him in, putting his two comfort blankets around him. I made sure he was OK and then I went upstairs and went to bed."
He said he came downstairs again at 9:40 a.m.
"Michelle was blowing up my phone again," Deats said. I told her I was gonna send her a picture, shower and then give Chandler a bath, then call her.
"I walked downstairs and took a quick picture of Chandler. When I first laid Chandler down, his head was facing towards my mom's bedroom. When I came down, his feet were kinda pointing towards my mom's bedroom and his head was more towards the back cushions. My mom was in the kitchen. As soon as I took the photo, and as I hit send, I realized that he was passed. I just had that feeling in me.
"I pulled the blanket off and put my hand on his belly to see if it was cold I felt that he was warm. I said to my mom that I think he passed away. I said that 'we are f--ked, Michelle's gonna kill us.'
"I picked up Chandler and his arms were limp and his head fell backwards. I just held him really tight in my arms then brought him to my mom's bed and layed him down. I tried doing CPR. My mom called the ambulance. My mom was a wreck when I told her I thought Chandler was passed."
UPDATE: Authorities now believe Deats is not Chandler's father.
First reported on The Batavian: Father in custody in case of infant's death in Batavia