ORLANDO, Fla. - An emergency custody hearing was held on Friday after an Orange County man was arrested on accusations of shaking his 2-year-old stepdaughter, according to Department of Children and Families officials.
Michael DeLeon, 23, was arrested on Wedsnesday on aggravated child abuse charges after a 2-year-old girl in his care was rushed into surgery at Arnold Palmer Hospital for severe head trauma on Aug. 24.
DeLeon told Orange County deputies his stepdaughter fell from a bunk bed at his West Colonial Drive home, but investigators believed it was a case of shaken baby syndrome because of the child's injuries.
The child's mother first told detectives she found her daughter alone lying on the ground and vomiting and said she thought the girl fell from a bunk bed. The mother later told investigators she found DeLeon holding her daughter in his arms when the injured 2-year-old cried out for help.
DCF officials said DeLeon had already been to jail once for shaking the same baby. When he was released, he was not supposed to have contact with children, but the child's mother petitioned in criminal court to get the order amended so he can have supervised contact with her children, including the victim.
"The front line at the defense of a child is a parent. There is no excuse," said Carrie Hoeppner of DCF. "This child has already been victimized once by the same individual. For us to be back in the court room, fast forward is unacceptable."
DCF officials said they were unaware of the amended order and the court removed the order on Friday.
The child is in critical condition and on a ventilator and doctors don't know if she will survive, according to DCF officials.
"We absolutely have grave concerns for her ability to protect her children not only from him but from any other situation," Hoeppner said.
DCF has now taken custody of the mother's four kids. The two older children were placed with their grandmother and the 8-month-old is going into foster care.
When DeLeon was arrested, he appeared to pass out and was hospitalized for an anxiety reaction. Police say he is currently on suicide watch in jail after being evaluated for making some type of gestures.
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