Westport foster parents charged with child abuse

John Nickerson, Staff Writer
Published: 10:44 a.m., Friday, January 21, 2011

WESTPORT -- The foster parents of four children were arrested this week for allegedly injuring a 6-month-old boy so severely he had bleeding on the brain and endangering the welfare of the other young children.
Debbie DeCarvalho, 42, and Mario Leone, 38, of 1040 Post Road East, turned themselves in to police Wednesday and were charged with first-degree assault and risk of injury to a minor.
DeCarvalho, kennel manager and pet stylist at a pet grooming business, Town House for Dogs and Cats, located at her Post Road East address, told police she was the caretaker of the youngsters, and was additionally charged with four counts of risk of injury to a minor.
DeCarvalho was freed after posting a $50,000 cash bond; her husband, Leone, was freed after posting a $25,000 cash bond. The two are to appear in court on Jan. 28, but the date may be moved to Feb. 3, their attorney said.
An investigation of DeCarvalho began when she took the boy to Norwalk Hospital on July 2, 2010, saying the infant had a "seizure like episode," her four-page arrest warrant affidavit said.
After examining the baby and ordering a CAT scan, doctors discovered the child had bleeding on the brain and a possible skull fracture -- injuries indicative of shaken baby syndrome, the affidavit said.
DeCarvalho's attorney, Vicki Hutchinson, said she has not seen any of the medical records or statements from any of doctors or witnesses.
"At this point I have no comment on any of this," Hutchinson said.
DeCarvalho, who had the baby for three weeks, said the baby's arms went stiff, then lifeless before experiencing breathing problems when she was changing him, the affidavit states; DeCarvalho, who also runs a nonprofit dog rescue organization called Tiny Paws Wet Noses, was adamant the baby had not had a recent fall or any reason to experience blunt trauma to the head.
But when police spoke to Leone -- after initially ruling out a fall -- he confessed the infant had fallen off the couch, but even though the baby had been with them for three weeks, could not say when the fall occurred, according to the affidavit.
When state Department of Children and Families workers interviewed the other children, they said while DeCarvalho worked at her pet grooming business she paid little attention to them. The three said they were left alone watching television during the day while DeCarvalho groomed the animals.
DeCarvalho said she checked on the kids once an hour and told police they all knew that if they needed anything all they had to do was hit the intercom button on their baby monitors.