The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

August 1, 2013

Calamus man pleads guilty to child endangerment

By Samantha Pidde Herald Staff Writer
The Clinton Herald

---- — CLINTON — A Calamus man admitted in court Thursday that he should have taken his 6-week-old daughter to the hospital after he dropped her.

"I failed to do that and I should have done," Eladio Pena Jr., 29, said.

Pena pleaded guilty to child endangerment, causing serious injury, as a habitual offender, a class C felony. Typically this charge would carry as much as 10 years in prison. However, since Pena has two previous felony convictions, the habitual offender status increases it to a maximum of 15 years.

Judge Nancy Tabor made sure the defendant understood this charge is a forceable felony, meaning he will be required to serve some prison time. He would not be eligible for parole until he served three years. As part of the agreement, the state would dismiss a count of willful injury, causing serious injury and two more child endangerment charges.

"I believe this plea agreement is in his best interest," Defense Attorney Mary Wolfe said about her client.

Pena admitted that on the morning of Feb. 18, he dropped his daughter and noticed later in the day that she had damaged her neck. He had a car, but did not take her to the hospital. Tabor pointed out this fits into the language of child endangerment by denying a child of necessities, such as food, clothing, shelter and medical treatment.

According to court documents, the infant's mother, Danielle R. Bunce, 22, of Calamus, and maternal great-aunt, Debra Dillion, 60, of Wheatland, brought the baby to to the Genesis Hospital emergency room in Davenport shortly before 11 a.m. Feb. 19. Initially they told staff Dillon had dropped the baby when a dog jumped up. Once they learned the severity of the injuries, they stated Pena fell asleep with his daughter on his chest and awoke to find her on the floor.

Thursday, Wolfe confirmed with her client that medical professionals have stated the neck injury worsened over the night, eventually developing into brain injuries. Pena agreed that if he had taken the baby to the hospital that afternoon when he noticed she was in pain, the damage may not have progressed so far.

Bunce and Dillon are also charged with one count of willful injury and three counts of child endangerment causing serious injury. As part of his plea, Pena agreed to provide information and statements on them. If he is found in violation of his agreement, he will be required to submit to a polygraph test, which will be admissible in court.

Tabor waived the acceptance of the plea until a pre-sentencing agreement is finished. The sentencing is set for 9 a.m. Sept. 5.