WINCHESTER — A Frederick County man has admitted to shaking his baby causing blindness and permanent brain damage in the now 19-month-old boy.
In a plea bargain on Friday in Frederick County Circuit Court, Nicholas Merrill Hamman pleaded no contest to aggravated malicious wounding. A child cruelty charge was dropped as part of the agreement.
Preliminary state sentencing guidelines, which judges are not bound by, recommend a minimum of 51/2 years, a midpoint of 10 years and four months and a maximum of 12 years and four months. The 31-year-old Hamman’s sentencing is scheduled for 9 a.m. Oct. 18.
The shaking occurred on May 28, 2018, in Hamman’s home in the 200 block of Cavalry Drive when the baby was about 6 months old. Louis Campola, a county assistant commonwealth’s attorney, told Judge Alexander R. Iden that Elizabeth K. Hamman, Hamman’s mother, called 911 about the baby being unresponsive. Hamman told Deputy Jared K. Repass he shook the boy for about four or five seconds.
“He wouldn’t stop crying so I shook him,” Hamman told Repass, according to Campola. “His head bobbled four or five times.”
Hamman said the baby had been colicky — a condition frequently caused by gas pain in babies — causing him to continually cry. Hamman said he changed his diaper, but the baby continued to cry. Campola said Hamman told Repass he was aware of shaken baby syndrome — a condition in which a child’s retina becomes detached causing blindness and brain swelling — prior to shaking his son.
Campola said Hamman told the deputy the baby was unresponsive after he shook him, even after he tickled his feet and gently spanked him. Hamman said he then got his mother, who called an ambulance.
Campola said a doctor who examined the boy said he believed Hamman shook the baby more than four or five seconds due to the severity of his injuries. “The doctor said, quote, ‘The child will never be normal again,’” Campola said.
Campola said after the court proceeding that the baby is living with his mother, who lives with Elizabeth Hamman. Elizabeth Hamman, who cried at times before the hearing, wouldn’t comment afterward. Reached by phone after the court hearing, Hillary Hamman, Hamman’s sister, also wouldn’t comment.
However, in an August interview, she said her brother had to quit his job as a customer service representative due to a medical condition that caused swelling in his jaw, so he often took care of the baby when the boy’s mother was away. She said the baby had been teething for four straight days, and neither the boy nor his father had slept much when the incident occurred.
Hamman described her brother as “docile” and “sweet” and said he had become “overwhelmed” in taking care of his son. Hamman said her brother, who has been jailed at the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center since being arrested, constantly apologizes for his behavior and cries about it. Defense attorney David L. Hensley said after the proceeding that he plans to introduce mitigating factors at the sentencing hearing that he hopes Iden will consider before deciding Hamman’s fate.