WARNING: The details of this story are extremely graphic and could be disturbing to some readers.
A Bucks County couple was arrested after they allegedly abused their baby twin daughters, causing severe injuries, including fractures and lacerations.
Melissa Shales, 25, and her husband Michael Shales, 30, are both charged with aggravated assault, conspiracy to aggravated assault, endangering the welfare of children and recklessly endangering another person.
The investigation began the night of March 21 when police received a call reporting one of the couple’s 2-month-old twin daughters was experiencing breathing problems inside their apartment on the 500 block of Main Street in Tullytown. When police arrived they were met by the couple who told them the child had some type of cloth lodged in her throat, according to the affidavit. Police say their apartment was also in deplorable condition with clothes, toys, tools, soiled diapers and dirty dishes scattered across the living room, kitchen floor and bedrooms. Police also say they found several rounds of ammunition from a .223 rifle lying on the floor that was easily accessible.
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The couple’s twin daughters as well as their 3-year-old son were all taken to St. Mary’s Hospital for evaluation. Police then spoke to the couple’s two neighbors, including Carmen Serrano, who told NBC10 she had offered to watch the twins that day because Melissa Shales wasn’t feeling well.
“When she ended up leaving I heard gurgling in the baby,” Serrano said. “When I looked at the baby the baby had blood coming out of her nose and out of her mouth. I said, ‘you need to call 911 or I’m calling 911.’”
One of the neighbors told police she also noticed the baby’s face was blue and the girl was gasping for air as her eyes rolled back into her head. When the neighbor asked what was wrong with the girl, Michael Shales came out of the bathroom and told them the baby was choking on cotton and he had stuck a pair of pliers down the girl’s throat to get it out, according to the affidavit.
Doctors at St. Mary’s told investigators the injuries to the first child were so severe that she needed to be transferred to the Intensive Care Unit of St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children for further treatment. Dr. Maria McColgan of St. Christopher’s said the baby girl had several injuries, including a fractured thigh, fractured rib, damaged upper cervical spine and lacerations to her genitals and mouth. According to Dr. McColgan, the child could have died without treatment to her leg fracture.
The girl’s twin sister also suffered fractures to her left tibia and femur. Dr. McColgan told investigators that she did not believe any of the injuries to the twins were accidental and many were likely caused by pulling, shaking or twisting. Doctors also determined both babies were undernourished.
Police interviewed both parents. Michael Shales told police the day his daughter was taken to the hospital he had tried to grab a piece of cotton that was lodged in her throat and finally pulled it out with his fingers after four to five attempts, according to the affidavit. Shales claimed he noticed a small amount of blood on the girl’s mouth and believed he had accidentally cut it with his fingernails, police said. Investigators said they noticed his fingernails were extremely short however and he also admitted to frequently biting his nails. Shales also allegedly told police the girl’s genital injuries were caused by him wiping too hard while he was changing her diaper. Dr. McColgan told police the child’s injuries were not consistent with Shales’ claims however.
Melissa Shales allegedly told investigators that about a week and a half before their daughter’s hospitalization, she had grabbed her leg while they were inside their apartment and heard the leg “pop out.” Shales told police she and her husband frequently tried to pop the leg back in place by “twisting it” but never went to the hospital or doctor, according to the affidavit. Shales also allegedly admitted she had dropped her daughter on at least two occasions, causing injuries to the girl’s leg and back.
In regards to the baby’s leg injury, a neighbor told police she noticed the girl’s leg was red and extremely swollen. She also claimed she was told by Melissa Shales that the baby was wearing pants that were meant for a 1-year-old child even though she was less than 2-months-old at the time. Despite this, the baby’s thigh was so swollen that the pants were tight on her, according to the neighbor.
During her interview with police, Melissa Shales allegedly admitted that she often aggressively handled her two daughters in front of her husband because she was angry at him and wanted to get a reaction out of him. During an argument with her husband that occurred on March 20, Melissa said she was holding her daughter in a burping position against her shoulder and got so angry that she threw the child into her swing causing her to land hard on her side, according to the affidavit.
Both parents were arraigned Sunday and placed in the Bucks County Jail. The first twin girl remains at the hospital for treatment. The second twin girl and the 3-year-old boy were placed in protective custody. Officials told NBC10 they were already in protective custody before their parents were charged.