ELKTON — A man is facing child abuse charges after he allegedly burned his 2-year-old son with lit cigarettes and struck him in the head, arms and legs on several occasions inside their Elkton residence, according to Cecil County District Court records.
Investigators identified the suspect as Matthew Hodgson Jr., 31, of the unit block of Hollingsworth Manor, where the alleged incidents occurred from May 1 through June 5, when Elkton Police Department detectives arrested the suspect in the midst of their investigation, court records show.
Hodgson is charged with second-degree custodial child abuse, neglect of a minor and two counts of second-degree assault, according to court records, which further indicate that he is scheduled for a July 20 preliminary hearing.
He remained in the Cecil County Detention Center without bond on Friday, four days after his bail review hearing, court records show.
As a result of the investigation, the child has been placed into a “licensed Cecil County foster home,” as part of an intervention, reported EPD Det. Lindsey Ziegenfuss, lead investigator.
The investigation started at approximately 12:05 a.m. on June 5, after Hodgson’s live-in girlfriend – she is the mother of the child — walked into EPD’s station on Railroad Avenue and reported that Hodgson had assaulted her inside their residence, police said.
As a result of the alleged assault, police added, the woman suffered injuries to her head.
While reporting that alleged assault, the woman also told Ziegenfuss that she had witnessed Hodgson assault their son, who turns 3 in December, on numerous occasions during the past month, police reported.
The woman alleged that Hodgson “strikes (the child) very hard in the head, arms and legs. (The woman) advised that when she tries to console her son after being hit, (Hodgson) will not allow her to, indicating that she is making excuses for the baby,” according to charging documents.
Because the alleged assaults had occurred so frequently during the past month, the woman was unable to provide specific dates of most of the incidents, police noted.
But she was able to pinpoint the most recent alleged assaults, telling investigators that she heard their child “screaming and crying” during the early-morning hours of June 5 and that those sounds prompted her to run into a bedroom, where Hodgson and baby were together, police reported.
Hodgson told the woman that the baby – identified as “M.H.” in charging documents — wanted a sip of soda, when she asked him why their child was upset, court records show.
“(Hodgson) and the child were under the covers of the blanket at the time. (Hodgson) had, moments before, lit a cigarette on the stove prior to going back into the room with the child . . . (The woman) observed M.H. had a circular in shape burn, the size of a lit cigarette and burnt ash around the perimeter of the injury,” court records allege.
Hodgson explained that he had dropped his cigarette into the bedding and the cigarette burned the baby’s knee, after the woman asked about the their son’s injury, police reported.
Later that day, however, according to court records, EPD detectives discovered similar marks on the baby.
“As the day progressed, a second circular mark, consistent with a cigarette burn, started becoming more apparent as the injury started to blister. Additional photographs were taken, as both injuries were now starting to blister. The additional photographs showed two circular blistered marks in close proximity of one another, indicating that M.H. was burned twice. (Hodgson’s) explanation to (the woman) regarding the cause of the injuries would be inconsistent with the injuries themselves,” Ziegenfuss maintains in her written statement of probable cause contained in court records.
The woman also informed investigators about a third, similar injury evident on the child – this one located under the left arm of the boy, court records show.
“This injury was also a small circular injury with specks of scab around it. When she asked Matthew Hodgson how the injury occurred, he could not provide an answer and stated that the injury had been there,” according to charging documents, which do specify if the last injury discovered was consistent with a cigarette burn mark.
The woman also alleged that Hodgson had been “using methamphetamine and possibly even heroin and that his drug use causes him to become increasingly more violent towards her and their child,” police said.
In addition, police added, the woman reported several other incidents of domestic abuse that had occurred during the past few months.
“(The woman) advised that (Hodgson) has been throwing objects at her during disputes and there have been times where she has been struck by (Hodgson) while the child is in her arms. (The woman) reported that, on the early morning hours of June 5, (Hodgson) threw a metal spoon towards her and the spoon struck M.H.,” court records allege.
Court records indicate that the woman, who has legal custody of the child, had been granted a final protection order against Hodgson.
“However, she reported she and her son came back to live with (Hodgson) in February, after he convinced her that he had changed and that the abuse would no longer occur,” according to charging documents.
As part of the investigation, EPD detectives conducted a court-approved search of the Hollingsworth Manor residence where the couple and their baby had been living, police reported.
“Officers noted the house in filthy conditions, with hazards for a 2-year-old throughout the home. There were open pill bottles, open alcohol containers, knives, scissors, chemicals, Suboxone strips and other dangerous objects strewn throughout the home in reach of the child,” Ziegenfuss alleges in charging documents.