Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Doctor says 'significant force' caused injuries that killed Hillsborough County baby

TAMPA — A doctor who attended to 4-month-old Dylan Dankert testified Tuesday that the baby was "almost dying" when his father brought him to a hospital in December 2003.

Dylan's fatal injuries, which included a ruptured intestine, suggested blunt force trauma, pediatric surgeon Luis Martinez said.

"The type of injury that I found in the intestine of this child required a very significant force to occur in that way," said Martinez, one of several witnesses who testified on the first day of the father's murder trial.

Donald Dankert, 27, is accused of first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse.

In opening statements, Dankert's attorney, Theda James, characterized the baby's death as a tragic accident caused in part by a delay in care when the baby was sent from one hospital to another. But prosecutor Debra Bell told jurors that Dankert's account of how his son sustained injuries did not correspond with doctors' assessments.

By the father's account, he was home holding Dylan on the morning of Dec. 19, 2003, when a dog barked. He was startled and dropped the baby, jerking up his own leg as if to break the fall, he said. He caught Dylan by the ankle and prevented him from hitting the floor, he said. But afterward, something seemed off about the child's eyes, and Dankert took him to University Community Hospital.

Assessing the baby's condition to be critical, doctors performed CPR and other lifesaving techniques, Bell told jurors. But they decided he needed surgery and had to be transferred to St. Joseph's Hospital, where Martinez saw him.

Bell told the jury to expect testimony from several medical experts about the severity of the baby's injuries, which previously have been reported as a lacerated intestine, a bruised head and broken ribs.

In court, Martinez, who performed surgery on the baby, said, "This child cannot fall with enough force on anything to cause such an injury unless the fall is from several feet higher."

He said the injuries could have come from kicking or stomping.

Defense attorney James said the hospital took too long to transport Dylan to St. Joseph's. Medical examiners also do not agree on the time of Dylan's injuries, she told jurors.

Testimony continues when the trial resumes at 8:30 a.m. today.

Dankert also faces a 2008 Pinellas County charge of aggravated child abuse involving the toddler of a woman he met while out on bail. That trial is scheduled for October.

Nandini Jayakrishna can be reached at (813) 661-2441 or [email protected]

Doctor says 'significant force' caused injuries that killed Hillsborough County baby 09/21/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 21, 2010 10:59pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Editorial: The unknown price tags in the mayor's race


    St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman has been busy promoting all sorts initiatives in the months leading up to the Nov. 7 election, doubling down on his progressive agenda without spending much money or generating much controversy. But make no mistake, the cost will come due after the election. Without a change in …

    The mayor is determined to get artist Janet Echelman to create a sculpture for the new Pier. But the cost would be much higher than what is allocated. Above is Echelman’s As If It Were Already Here in Boston.
  2. Massachusetts firm buys Tampa's Element apartment tower

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Downtown Tampa's Element apartment tower sold this week to a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company that plans to upgrade the skyscraper's amenities and operate it long-term as a rental community.

    The Element apartment high-rise at 808 N Franklin St. in downtown Tampa has been sold to a Northland Investment Corp., a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company. JIM DAMASKE  |  Times
  3. Judge won't cut prison term of man who pleads obesity


    TAMPA — A claim of obesity won't shave time off a Tampa man's prison sentence.

    Duane Crithfield and Stephen Donaldson Sr. were sentenced to prison after marketing a fraudulent offshore tax strategy known as a "Business Protection Plan" to medical practices, offering doctors and others coverage against unlikely events such as a kidnapping.
  4. Advocates for charter, public schools argue their cases at education forum


    TAMPA — Advocates of charter schools argued for diversity in education while supporters of traditional public schools charged that state funding is stacked against them during a forum Friday titled "Choices in Education."

    Schools such as Winthrop Charter School deserve greater public support, their operators say, because they offer a choice in education that is popular among parents. Public school advocates say charter and voucher schools represent a double standard in accountability and enrollment. [WILL VRAGOVIC  |  Times]
  5. Editorial: UF shows how to preserve free speech


    The University of Florida was forced to navigate a treacherous terrain of constitutional concerns and public safety this week, all in a glaring public spotlight. In the end, Thursday's appearance by Richard Spencer was a success — as much as an unwelcome visit from a notorious white nationalist can be. The …