Man pleads guilty in attack on baby daughter

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WALLA WALLA — A man accused of breaking the ribs of his infant daughter last year has pleaded guilty in Walla Walla County Superior Court to a felony charge.

Thomas N. Caldwell, 35, entered the guilty plea Monday to the charge of second-degree assault of a child.

In exchange, the prosecution agreed to reduce the charge from first-degree, but is recommending Caldwell be ordered to serve the high end of the standard range of four years and nine months to six years and three months in prison when he is sentenced later.

The defense will ask for the low end of the range.

If Caldwell had been convicted as initially charged, he would have faced a standard-range prison term of 11 1/2 to 15 1/3 years.

He didn’t admit guilt at Monday’s plea hearing, but acknowledged the prosecution has evidence that can convict him.

Officials said Caldwell, of 708 S. College Ave., No. 204, College Place, forcibly grabbed and squeezed his baby — breaking seven of her ribs — probably around the end of October or first of November of last year when she was 7 to 7 1/2 months old.

The injuries came to light when the child’s mother, Amber D. Dublinski, took her to Walla Walla General Hospital on Jan. 9 because she wasn’t thriving.

X-rays revealed the baby’s injuries, which were in the healing stage, and authorities were notified.

Caldwell gave differing accounts of how the injuries could have occurred, Walla Walla police said.

He eventually admitted hurting his daughter, but said it was an accident. He reportedly told police he was drunk when he went to the College Place apartment after a Halloween party, tripped over something, fell forward and landed with his elbow on the stomach of the baby who was in a bassinet.

A subsequent report by a child protection team at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle determined that falling into a bassinet doesn’t explain the child’s injuries, according to a Walla Walla police report filed in court.

Caldwell — whose criminal history includes rape of a child and unlawful imprisonment in the 1990s — was arrested in College Place on May 15 and booked into the Walla Walla County Jail.

The child reportedly was placed in foster care and is doing well.

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