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Police and fire

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Courtesy Allen County Sheriff's Department
Robert E. Dickey

Father jailed in attack on baby boy

Felony charge filed in skull-fracture case

– They were having sex when the baby woke up.

In a car seat on the floor at the foot of the bed, the 8-week-old boy began to cry. The mother climbed off the bed and went in search of a bottle of formula for the child.

The father, who had been drinking whiskey and beer since getting off work six hours earlier, was left alone with the boy. Somewhere in these moments the mother heard a smack from the bedroom, bringing her running back.

And somewhere in these moments, the baby would suffer a skull fracture and scratches on his backside – scratches that both police and doctors believe probably came from the plug of a space heater.

It's in these moments that police believe the father, identified as 35-year-old Robert E. Dickey, battered his son.

Dickey, of the 600 block of Fry Street, was arrested Monday and has been preliminarily charged with felony counts of neglect of a dependent causing serious bodily injury and battery causing serious bodily injury.

The battery he's accused of dishing out to his son likely occurred Feb. 15, according to Fort Wayne police records and Allen Superior Court documents.

On that day, Dickey worked third shift and left his job at 7 a.m.

He went to a home in the 1400 block of West Wallen Road that had been previously listed as his home address.

According to court documents, Dickey then began drinking whiskey and beer.

He and the mother of his son began having sex about 1:30 p.m., and while they were on the bed the baby began to cry.

The mother went toward the kitchen but came back after she heard the smack. In the bedroom, she saw Dickey holding the baby.

That's when, according to court documents, this exchange happened:

"What did you do to the baby?" the woman said.

"Nothing," Dickey said.

"What did you do to …?" the woman said again.

At that moment, Dickey began to cry and called 911 himself, telling an emergency dispatcher that he "hurt his baby and needed to go to prison," according to court documents.

At a hospital, medical staff found the baby had a skull fracture and scratches to his buttocks.

In an interview with a Fort Wayne police detective, Dickey used a doll to re-enact what he did with his son while the mother was out of the room.

According to court documents, Dickey said he picked the boy up by his hips and without supporting his head.

He then began to "fly him around the room like a superhero," court documents said.

Dickey then showed how he placed the baby against his chest with the baby's arms behind Dickey's head. That's when the baby began to cry like he was in pain, Dickey told police.

Dickey, whose right hand had longer fingernails than his left, said he must have scratched the boy on his backside. The detective did not think the scratches looked as if they came from fingernails but rather a "forceful strike from an object," court documents said.

A little more than a week after the boy suffered the injuries, a detective met with the boy's mother at the home. He ruled out belts and buckles as the source of the scratches.

It was in this moment the detective discovered the baby had been sleeping next to a space heater. When the detective compared the space heater plug to a photo of the boy's injuries to his rear end, he believed he had a match.

Days later, a forensic pathologist would look at the photos and concur – the boy had been struck with the plug to the space heater.

In his interview with police, Dickey maintained that he had no idea how the boy suffered a skull fracture. He also said he had no idea how the scratches could have occurred if not for his fingernails.

The detective asked whether he truly believed he should go to prison, as he had told the emergency dispatcher.

"Yes, anyone who hurts a child should go to prison," Dickey said in court documents.

Dickey served a stint in prison for dealing cocaine this decade, according to the Indiana Department of Correction.

He's also been convicted of a previous battery.

Dickey is in Allen County Jail in lieu of $20,000 bond. And he has been served a no-contact order to keep him away from his son should he be released.

jeffwiehe@jg.net

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