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Dad accused of shaking baby to death

LARGO — Skyler Giovo was just 4 months old when he died Wednesday night.

Largo police say they think he was the victim of shaken baby syndrome, brought on by his father, Michael L. Giovo Jr.

But Giovo said he's done nothing to hurt his son and that the only injury he can think of happened when the baby fell off a couch on Thanksgiving night.

In an interview from the Pinellas County Jail, where he faces charges of aggravated child abuse and murder, Giovo said he has been wrongfully accused and his legal problems have now compounded an already devastating personal tragedy.

"It's not fair. The law is supposed to be out there to get the bad guys," Giovo said Friday during an interview at the jail. "I'm not a bad guy. I would never hurt my son."

How the child actually received such severe, internal head injuries will be a question for the courts.

But both police and Giovo agree about certain parts of the timeline leading up to Skyler's death.

Thanksgiving Day, Giovo, fiancee Jessica Hooper and their children spent the day with family nearby. When they came home, Hooper went to sleep and Giovo stayed up watching television, according to Giovo's account.

Sometime that night, Skyler began to cry so Giovo took him out of his crib and placed him on the couch while he prepared a bottle.

Giovo said he heard a cry and discovered his son had fallen off the couch. Police say the couch is roughly 18 inches off the Berber carpeted floor. Giovo said that the baby cried for a while, but he seemed to recover, and that Skyler slept next to him in bed that night.

The next morning, the parents noticed the baby was not acting right, according to police and Giovo. He was sluggish, he was not hungry. When he started to twitch, the parents rushed him to All Children's Hospital.

Giovo points to this as further evidence he didn't harm his son. If he had abused the boy, why would he have rushed the boy to the hospital, Giovo asked.

At All Children's, doctors discovered the baby was suffering from serious injuries. Police were told by a doctor that the injuries were "highly inconsistent" with a fall from a couch and were more likely an indication of child abuse.

As Skyler lay on his death bed, Michael Giovo was interviewed by police at the hospital and then at his home on La Costa Lane in Largo.

"I didn't get to see my son for seven hours while they were interrogating me," Giovo complained. He said he went along with the interview voluntarily because police said he was not a suspect. "If I knew they were going to make me a suspect I would have asked for a lawyer right then."

On the night of Nov. 29, he was arrested and taken to jail on a charge of aggravated child abuse, where he was held without bond. The arrest affidavit said the baby was expected to die within 24 hours.

Giovo continued to stay in touch with his fiancee and his father over the next few days as his son's condition showed no improvement.

Wednesday night, doctors told the family that the boy would never be able to open his eyes and would remain a vegetable, Giovo said. He and his fiancee decided to remove him from life support.

The loss has been devastating for the family. Giovo has one other son, 5-year-old Ashton, who lives with the boy's mother. Hooper has a 5-year-old daughter who lives with them on La Costa Lane. Giovo said the girl was taken away by the Department of Children and Families because of the allegations. Police said Hooper had no knowledge of the Thanksgiving incident.

Giovo was already scheduled to appear in court next week on a felony charge of identity theft and has a criminal record that includes burglary charges. Until he was laid off last week, Giovo worked installing air-conditioners. His fiancee is a stay-at-home mom, according to police.

Giovo is being held without bail.

"I am not a bad father," Giovo said. "I've done everything I could for my kids."

Jonathan Abel can be reached at jabel@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4157.

Dad accused of shaking baby to death 12/05/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 10, 2008 10:33pm]
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