A Vermont father pleaded not guilty to charges of aggravated assault and reckless endangerment after police and prosecutors said he intentionally fell from a fourth-story window while clutching his child.
Tyler Denning, 25, of South Burlington, is accused of hugging one of his children tightly as he threw himself from an apartment window on March 25.
The two hurtled toward the ground together, but that fall was no accident, said the South Burlington Police Department and prosecutors in the office of Chittenden County State's Attorney Sarah George.
According to police paperwork filed with the court, the 6-year-old boy was left with a bloody nose, a cut lip and a sore belly, but he avoided more serious injuries. He told a South Burlington detective he fell on top of his dad, apparently cushioning the fall for the boy.
Tuesday, after a lengthy police investigation, and his recovery from several broken bones, Denning was arraigned on the criminal charges.
His attorney entered not guilty pleas to both accusations.
Police records filed with the court showed Denning had smoked marijuana that day in late March, but told physicians it was God who made him jump.
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A South Burlington officer said in court paperwork that a doctor who evaluated Denning said the patient was thinking of suicide.
The suspect didn't want to talk to necn on camera, but his defense attorney would. Ted Kenney said right now, his client is focusing on being a good dad.
"He's gainfully employed," the lawyer added. "He's a good family man."
Kenney said Denning had a psychotic incident the day of the dangerous drop, following a stretch of mental struggles. Kenney described the crisis as a sudden mental break; a combo of delusions and panic.
Kenney added that he is grateful his client somehow managed to cushion the child's fall by positioning his body just right.
"He was still, in some small degree, of control of himself to protect his child, even as he was doing something that was clearly irrational and hyper-dangerous," Kenney told necn. "He has to make sure his health is good, so he doesn't ever do something like this again."
Kenney praised Denning's relatives, the mother of his children, and personnel from the Vermont Department for Children and Families for working together in a caring and serious way, to ensure Denning's mental health is a priority.
"This isn't a case where everyone's fighting, or everyone disagrees," Kenney said. "It's one where everyone's working together toward a positive outcome for this family."
Judge Dennis Pearson ordered Denning to have no unsupervised contact with his kids while the court case against him proceeds.