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Father Accused In Baby's Death Had Neglect Charges Dropped Less Than A Year Ago

Reported: May. 22, 2014 6:11 PM EDT
Updated: May. 23, 2014 4:55 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Leslie Rubin) -- Eyewitness News has learned that the man at the center of the investigation into the death of his 5-week-old son has a criminal background that includes violence and child neglect allegations.

Robert Jeremy Smith, 33, is facing 10 to 40 years in prison on a charge death of a child by parent or guardian. Police said he did not report his son's death for more than 27 hours. Police said the baby appeared to have suffered multiple skull fractures.

Putnam County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Sorsaia will be leading the case, as police believe the child's death happened in Hurricane, before Smith drove with the body to Kanawha City.

It's not the first time Smith has had criminal court cases. Sorsaia said one of the first things his office does in these investigations is look at the suspect's criminal past.

"What potential history an individual has because it can shed light on an investigation," he said.

Court documents said Smith was convicted of domestic battery against his girlfriend in 2001, after he threw her down on a bed, and bit her face.

In 2008, Sorsaia said Smith was a suspect in an investigation into "suspicious injuries" on a child, but he was not charged because they could not prove the injuries were not accidental.

"You do your best to try to deal with these issues before they get out of hand," the prosecutor said.

Most recently, in July 2013, Smith, along with his wife Jennifer Smith, were both charged with child neglect creating risk of bodily injury or death.

In a criminal complaint, police said the Smiths let a 12-year-old child watch a 10-year-old, 5-year-old, 4-year-old and 3-month-old baby at their Venable Avenue home.

Arresting officer Cpl. Brian Jones told Eyewitness News he was told by the Kanawha County Prosecutor's Office to arrest the couple. Eight days later, the charges were dismissed at a preliminary hearing.

Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Dan Holstein said there was insufficient evidence to make any kind of criminal charge out of the case.

"The parents were five minutes away at a medical appointment, and in constant texting contact with the oldest children. It was bad judgment by the parents, but not criminal conduct, and certainly nothing to do with these present terrible circumstances," Holstein said in a statement.

Charleston Police Domestic Violence Coordinator Kim Eagle said, in many cases such as Smith's, there is a pattern of abuse.

"The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, so we can't minimize those cases," she said. "We'll end up with the homicides, if you minimize the little ones."

An autopsy is being performed on the infant to determine an exact cause of death.



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