NEW LONDON — An active-duty Navy seaman was arraigned Friday on assault and risk of injury charges for allegedly inflicting life-threatening injuries on his 2-month-old son.
Prosecutors said that Jordan Rittenhouse's son was lucky to be alive in a child-abuse case doctors described as one of the worst they had ever seen.
"One of the doctors said they were surprised that the victim was still alive," prosecutors told Judge Kevin P. McMahon in New London Superior Court during Rittenhouse's arraignment.
Prosecutors said the baby was suffering from 29 fractures when he was first taken to the hospital.
McMahon raised Rittenhouse's bail to $500,000. He did not enter a plea. A second court date was scheduled for Sept. 10.
Rittenhouse, 24, is currently a student at the Naval Submarine School in Groton. The public affairs office at the New London sub base confirmed Friday that Rittenhouse was still on active duty but said it had no further comment.
Prosecutors said that Rittenhouse had been in the Navy for about nine months and moved to Connecticut in January from North Carolina with his wife and two young children.
According to court documents, Krishna Rittenhouse, Jordan's wife, told police that their baby "became fussy with feedings a couple of weeks ago," which she thought was due to acid reflux.
Krishna Rittenhouse took the baby to Lawrence and Memorial Hospital on Aug. 25, where multiple rib fractures "at different stages of healing" were detected.
The boy was then transferred to Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital for treatment, where it was determine the baby had 29 bone fractures. Police and the state Department of Children and Families were called in to investigate.
According to the arrest warrant application, Krishna Rittenhouse described herself as a "helicopter mom" who "hovered" over her children to police and said that she works two to three days a week at a Talbots in Clinton but mostly stays at home and takes care of the children while Jordan Rittenhouse is in sub school.
Krishna Rittenhouse told police that her husband watches the kids while she is at work and that he sometimes gets "frustrated" with them.
When questioned by police, Jordan Rittenhouse said he was suffering from stress due to school, bills and his home life and said "I may have squeezed him at some point" when asked if he had ever been rough with the child.
"I am afraid for my career," Jordan Rittenhouse told police. "I'm just getting started in my career."
Jordan Rittenhouse told police that he "knew it was wrong" when he squeezed his son and immediately put him down and started rubbing his back.
The doctor who examined the child at Yale Children's Hospital told police that in addition to the rib fractures there were also fractures to the victim's extremities, which would not have been caused by "squeezing." The doctor, Andrea Asnes, told police that several of the injuries were older than a week.
Upon further questioning, Jordan Rittenhouse told police that he squeezed the child hard enough to make it stop crying as many as 16 times over a period of three to four weeks. Jordan Rittenhouse told police that during one of those instances he became concerned that he may have "punctured a lung," but never told his wife about it.
Rittenhouse told police about another incident when the child had been "fussy" and he "shoved" a bottle in the child's mouth drawing blood. Rittenhouse told his wife that the child "scratched himself."
In a written statement to police, Jordan Rittenhouse admitted to causing the child's injuries, as well as "pushing on the victim's knees with force on several occasions" and placing "the victim's arm up to the victim's shoulder and behind his head and then pulled down on the victim's wrist."
Courant Staff Writer Nicholas Rondinone contributed to this story.