West Memphis father accused of throwing, shaking two-month-old son

WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. — A two-month-old baby was fighting for his life at Le Bonheur Monday after police said his own father nearly killed him.

West Memphis Police said they arrested John Russell Hardin, 20, and charged him with first-degree battery for shaking and throwing his baby boy.

"We just hear them fighting very often and screaming in the front yard," neighbor Papaya Gillard said. "I grew up in an abusive household, so I know what it sounds like when it's getting to the point where he might hit her or whoever is around."

Unfortunately, the neighbors said they were not surprised by the latest turn of events.

According to police, Hardin and his girlfriend took the baby to the hospital on June 16, but left soon after. Police didn't know why.

The child had a seizure the next day and they brought him back, police said.

While treating the child, doctors at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital noticed the infant had broken ribs and called detectives. They said the baby got the injuries several days prior.

Police said the boy's father, Hardin, admitted to abusing him at home during two separate incidents.

"He had thrown the baby down prior to shaking the baby," said Captain Joe Baker with the West Memphis Police Department. "The baby has massive head injuries - brain swelling, brain bleeding and cracked ribs that were picked up on the scan."

Police charged Hardin with felony first-degree battery.

But they also said they had no record of any serious issues at the house before, meaning neighbors never called police during the violent fights.

"It's the same message we try to get out all of the time: if you see something then you have to say something. We can't investigate cases we have no information on," Baker said.

Police said they hoped it served as a lesson they wish had never happened.

"I really hoped this wouldn't have happened, but I feel bad for not doing anything about it," Gillard said.

The child's mother was not charged. Police said they did not suspect her of any wrongdoing.

As of Monday, the baby was taken off a ventilator on Friday and had been able to breathe on his own over the weekend. However, they said it's still too early to tell how much the abuse will impact his mental capacity. Doctors said he may be blind.