The 1-month-old infant who died at his Milo home in late August had been beaten to the point that he had several fractured bones and cuts on his organs, according to court documents that a Piscataquis County Superior Court justice unsealed Monday.
His father Reginald Melvin, who has a history of domestic violence assault, was charged with depraved indifference murder after the state medical examiner ruled Sylus Melvin’s death a homicide. A Penobscot County grand jury indicted Reginald Melvin last week.
The infant, who was born July 28, 2021, and was killed Aug. 29, 2021, died from blunt force trauma on several parts of his body, fractured bones, laceration of organs and hemorrhaging of the head and abdomen, according to the state medical examiner’s office.
Court documents, which were previously sealed, describe the details of what led up to the infant’s death. Sylus Melvin is one of four Maine children allegedly killed by a parent in 2021, which led to increased scrutiny of the state’s embattled child welfare system. Three reports on the state of the system are due next year, and lawmakers have proposed a range of reforms.
Sylus lived at Standing Birches, a mobile home park on Birch Street in Milo, with Desiree Newbert, his mother, Melvin and their 3-year-old daughter, Alexandria Melvin.
A Milo police officer and the Three Rivers Ambulance Service arrived at the mobile home at the same time Aug. 29 after Newbert called 911, according to the court documents, which used information from the officer’s report. An EMT carried Sylus out of the mobile home and gave the infant CPR inside the ambulance.
“Sylus felt cold to the touch and did not have a heartbeat,” the document said. “Officer [Trevor] Duby observed a bruise and a red abrasion under one of Sylus’ eyes.”
The document notes Duby overheard Melvin say he wanted to hurt himself because of what happened to Sylus. The officer saw Melvin punch himself two to three times.
Sylus was later airlifted to the Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.
Newbert last saw her son conscious and active between 3 a.m. and 3:45 a.m. on Aug. 29, when she fed him formula and put him to sleep in his playpen in the living room, she told detectives in an interview. She went to sleep in the recliner nearby and told Melvin not to touch the baby while he slept.
She awoke to Melvin opening the front door around 6 a.m. Melvin told her Sylus was not breathing and had choked on his bottle, according to the court document.
“She immediately took Sylus to her bedroom and told Reginald Melvin to call 911,” after realizing the infant was pale, cold, limp and was not breathing, the document said. “She then started rescue breathing. She stated that the air that came from Sylus smelled like rotten meat and she couldn’t help but think he had been dead for some time.”
Newbert noticed a cut on Sylus’ right cheek and the infant was wearing a different pair of pajamas.
Maine State Police collected various items at the infant’s home, including a brown washcloth in the washing machine, a fitted crib sheet in the master bedroom, a dinosaur baby blanket in a pink basket in the hallway and other items, which all contained red-brown staining. All of the stained items tested presumptive positive for blood, according to the court documents.
Besides Newbert, Melvin and Alexandria, the only other person who visited the residence Aug. 28 was Newbert’s mother Gail Newbert, Desiree Newbert told police.
Around 5:30 a.m. on Aug. 29, Melvin made Sylus a bottle and fed him on the couch, then brought the infant in the couple’s bedroom and propped him up on the bed while Melvin went to the bathroom, Melvin told detectives. He said he heard Sylus scream, ran out and patted him on the back.
In an initial interview with police, Melvin said he had placed Sylus back into his playpen and propped him up with a blanket after making him a bottle.
Melvin had been awake for almost 48 hours, and was smoking marijuana from the time Newbert went to sleep until he fed Sylus, he told detectives.
“Throughout the interview he denied harming Sylus and offered no explanation of how Sylus sustained his injuries,” the document said, noting that Melvin became uncooperative during the interview at Eastern Maine Medical Center and left.
If you are concerned about a child being neglected or abused, call Maine’s 24-hour hotline at 800-452-1999 or 711 to speak with a child protective specialist. Calls may be made anonymously. For more information, visit maine.gov/dhhs/ocfs/provider-resources/reporting-suspected-child-abuse-and-neglect.
BDN writer Judy Harrison contributed to this report.