Crime

Court document: Father burned, struck 3-year-old son, resulting in collapsed lung

JACKSON COUNTY -- The father arrested Monday on a felony child abuse charge is accused of burning his 3-year-old son and striking him, resulting a collapsed lung and a laceration to the boy's liver, according to the charging documents in the case.

County Court Judge T. Larry Wilson read the formal charges of felony child abuse and cultivation of marijuana to Nathan Blake McCrory, 24, during his bond hearing Monday. Based on the severity of the injuries to the child, the judge denied bond and McCrory will be held at the Jackson County jail. The judge set a preliminary hearing May 9.

McCrory's son, Zander Saucier, 3, was taken by ambulance to Singing River Hospital on Sunday and airlifted a day later to USA Women's and Children's Hospital for further treatment.

"Zander has opened both eyes," a family member posted on Facebook, adding that the boy also had given a high-five at the doctor's request.

"I asked the doc when he'd be able to tell us what to expect and he shrugged and said now," the relative said. The doctor told the family he expected to the boy to be "just fine" based on his latest movements.

Criminal investigation

Jackson County sheriff's investigators began a criminal probe after Singing River Hospital officials called to report that the boy's injuries were inconsistent with a fall. McCrory had brought his unresponsive son to his grandmother Sunday and said the boy had fallen down the stairs at his home on Rayford Shumoch Road.

McCrory did not go to the hospital to check on his son, Sheriff Mike Ezell said.

Sheriff's deputies arrested McCrory on Monday on criminal charges in the case. He also faces an additional drug charge after deputies found what they believed to be marijuana growing in the home.

The sheriff described the boy's injuries as "real bad" and said he had bruising all over his body.

Other assaults

McCrory's arrest Monday was not a first for him.

On April 29, 2013, Ezell said, sheriff's deputies arrested McCrory on misdemeanor charges of domestic violence by simple assault and malicious mischief. In that case, he said, another ex-girlfriend of McCrory's reported he had assaulted her and damaged her vehicle, which included breaking a window.

In 2011, Ezell said, the same woman called to report she suspected McCrory had caused damage to her vehicle, but she did not pursue charges in the case.

In another incident on Nov. 29, 2014, in Okaloosa County, Fla., sheriff's deputies arrested McCrory on two counts of first-degree battery by domestic violence, both misdemeanor offenses.

According to an affidavit, the same ex-girlfriend told authorities she was sitting in the backseat of a Toyota Tundra headed east on Miracle Strip Parkway in Fort Walton Beach when she and McCrory got into an argument.

During the argument, the affidavit said, McCrory "grabbed (the woman) by the hair and started pulling it..."

The truck's driver stopped the truck, the report said, got out and went around to the backseat to try to break up the fight.

McCrory, the report said, started hitting the driver while the girlfriend tried grabbing McCrory by the neck to pull him off the man trying to intervene.

The driver then got back in the truck and started to drive off, the report said, when McCrory reached from the backseat and started hitting the driver again.

The driver later told authorities he intervened after he heard McCrory's girlfriend shout, "Blake don't hit me."

The driver also told authorities that when he reached in the backseat, McCrory started hitting him and even "choked him."

The driver admitted striking McCrory as well to stop the fighting.

Mother was a witness

McCrory's mother, the report said, confirmed McCrory and his then girlfriend got into a fight in the back seat and her son struck the driver "several times" when he tried to stop the fighting.

McCrory, the affidavit said, claimed he struck the driver as a way of "defending himself."

Okaloosa County investigators also noted McCrory appeared to be impaired at the time of his arrest because his eyes were bloodshot and he reeked of alcohol.

'I know he didn't do it'

McCrory's father, Brandon McCrory, and grandfather, Gary McCrory, spoke in his defense before court convened. Both said Zander and his sibling love Nathan McCrory and prefer to spend time with him.

Gary McCrory said his grandson did nothing to harm Saucier, but instead the boy stumbled down a flight of stairs.

"He was on the phone with me just a little while ago and he was crying about his boy," Gary McCrory said.

Gary McCrory said he saw Saucier prior to his hospitalization Monday and noticed bruising on his head and "marks all over his arm."

When he asked his grandson what happened, he said, Nathan McCrory told him he'd just picked him up.

Gary McCrory said he took Zander riding on a 4-wheeler Saturday and he seemed fine. Once he found out the child was hospitalized in critical condition in Mobile, he said he and his wife drove over there.

He said he asked the family there where the child's mother was, and she came over and he embraced her.

It was then, he said, that he learned someone had taken Zander's "little arm and run something hot over it."

McCrory said he was too upset to even go in the hospital room and see Zander in that condition.

"If I found out who did that, somebody is going to get hurt," he said, "But Blake didn't do that. That baby fell down those stairs."

He said the fall would have been around a 15-foot drop. Gary McCrory said after the hearing he also heard Zander and his sister had ridden a 4-wheeler and fallen off. He said he believed the boy may have burned his arm then.

Brandon McCrory, said "I know he didn't do it."

"The kids wanted to be with him," he said. "Anybody who has been around him and those kids can all tell you he wouldn't hurt them."

The family said they also learned Nathan McCrory says that deputies at the jail are not treating him well. The grandfather said he plans to address the sheriff about that to stop the alleged mistreatment.

Meanwhile, the investigation into the child abuse allegations against McCrory is continuing.

To report information, call Jackson County sheriff's Investigator Eddie Clark at 872-7997.

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