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Dover man accused of taping tot to wall and slapping her is taken into custody

Union Leader Correspondent

December 21. 2012 7:01PM

DOVER - The man accused of taping a toddler to a wall, slapping her and withholding meals from her was taken into custody following his arraignment Friday morning.

Steven Smith, 24, of 149 Portland Ave., Apt. 11, who is not the child's father, entered no plea to the felony charge of second-degree assault and pleaded not guilty to three misdemeanors - false imprisonment and two counts of endangering welfare of a child.

Due to the seriousness of the allegations, Assistant Strafford County Attorney Jennifer Chase, who was prosecuting the case, recommended bail should increase to $10,000 cash.

"This is a very disturbing case," Chase said.

District Court Judge Stephen Morrison agreed to increase bail, but said it could return to $10,000 personal recognizance if Smith is accepted by Strafford County Community Corrections Program. Either way, he can have no contact with the girl or his wife, Cheryll, who is a co-defendant in the case.

Smith said he is a lifelong Dover resident who currently lives with his parents and works as a dishwasher. He added the 2-year-old girl is staying with a foster family in Rochester.

Cheryll Smith, who was released on $10,000 personal recognizance after turning herself in Dec. 6, pleaded not guilty to simple assault and two counts of endangering welfare of a child during her arraignment Dec. 14.

She is also not allowed to have contact with her daughter.

According to an affidavit filed by Detective Mark Nadeau Dec. 6, police began investigating the incidents after noticing the child's forehead was already "swollen and bruised" while an officer responded to a domestic disturbance between the couple Nov. 26.

Following the incident, the girl was held overnight in Wentworth-Douglass Hospital for testing and observation while members of the state Division of Children, Youth and Families were notified, according to court records.

While no charges were filed as a result of the domestic disturbance, investigators believe the girl sustained injuries and missed many meals during a two-week period last month.

"Steven told us that he 'lost it' and briefly spoke about repeated spankings and lengthy time outs," Nadeau wrote in the affidavit.

When the girl had tantrums or acted out - which includes "screaming, yelling and hitting" - Steven "would often spank her," allegedly up to 10 times, and it was common for this to happen up to a dozen times a day, according to the affidavit. Additionally, both Steven and Cheryl told police that they both send the girl to the corner for acting out and that time outs, which could occur multiple times a day, could last anywhere from a few minutes to five hours at a time, according to court records.

Both Cheryll and Steven Smith allegedly withheld food from the girl "on numerous occasions" if she did not say "please" or "thank you" or if she acted out during meals, according to the affidavit.

Cheryll Smith told police she recalled a six-day span where her daughter was allegedly only given one meal a day and another four-day period she received one meal every other day, according to court records.

Steven Smith told police the girl went "a few days" without food and "acknowledged that she recently looked malnourished," according to the affidavit.

"These are serious charges - you need to talk to a lawyer as soon as possible," Morrison said.

Second-degree assault is a class B felony, which is punishable by a maximum of 3 to 7 years and prison while simple assault and endangering welfare of a child are both class A misdemeanors, which can result in up to a year in jail for each charge, if convicted.

Smith was taken to Strafford County jail following the hearing. He is scheduled to appear for a probable cause hearing Jan. 2 at 10 a.m.

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