Jury acquits Warner Robins couple of child abuse

bpurser@macon.comNovember 4, 2013 

PERRY -- After deliberating about 45 minutes, a jury acquitted a Warner Robins couple of child abuse.

The verdict immediately brought gasps and tears of relief from the parents, Nashan and Johan Pereira, their family and friends.

“We are ecstatic,” said Bernadette Crucilla, one of the Macon attorneys making up the defense team. “My clients have always professed their innocence. Now it’s time to get baby Gabby back.”

The child was initially placed in protective custody and into a foster home after X-rays found multiple fractures in her body when she about 3 months old. She’s now 1 year old and lives with her grandparents in California.

The discovery in November 2012 led to the charges against the couple. Both are technical sergeants with the 78th Logistics Readiness Squadron at Robins Air Force Base.

During the long trial, medical experts split on whether most of the fractures were indicative of child abuse or underlying metabolic disorders such as rickets, a softening and weakening of the bones due to a lack of vitamin D, calcium or phosphate, or a brittle-bone disease known as osteogenesis imperfecta.

The multiple fractures were detected following a series of X-rays in November 2012 when the mother sought medical treatment for the infant after she noted the child’s foot was swollen.

Jurors also heard from Nashan Pereira during the trial. She told them about how she and her husband doted on their daughter, shared everything together from diapering to feeding and how both constantly took photos and videos of her. Some of those time-stamped photos and videos were shared with jurors. She also spoke of fertility shots and a surgery she underwent in order to conceive.

Macon attorney Boni Bush, the other defense attorney, noted during closing arguments that the couple has missed their daughter’s first words, first steps and first birthday because of the false accusations against them.

While that cannot be undone, jurors could help the couple win their daughter back with an acquittal, Bush said.

After the trial, Johan Pereira said it was hard for him to express all the emotions he was feeling. He said he and Nashan will continue to fight for their little girl.

“We fought hard to get Gabby here, and we’re fighting hard to get her back,” said Periera, fighting back tears.

With the conclusion of the criminal trial, the parents face a deprivation hearing in Houston County Juvenile Court. If the judge finds during that hearing that Gabby has been deprived, the parents will next face a hearing in Juvenile Court to determine whether their parental rights should be terminated.

Quoting one of the medical experts that testified on behalf of the couple, Bush noted, “These people are not only not guilty, they are truly innocent.

“So, my concern now becomes the absurd legal rules which result in this couple having to go through a repeat of this trial in Juvenile Court to regain custody of their daughter.”

Prosecutors Mark Anthony and Clif Woody could not be reached for comment by phone after the trial.

To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.

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