WINTER HAVEN — As the state of Florida prepares to vote on a ballot referendum on Nov. 4 that would legalize marijuana for medicinal use, the sheriff of one Central Florida county is blaming pot as the main culprit in a vicious child abuse case.
Christopher Finlayson, 24, was arrested after sheriff’s deputies say he threw an 11-month old baby across a room.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said after the arrest that Finlayson admitted smoking pot before the incident happened.
“This suspect admitted to smoking a blunt and a half of marijuana, staying up all night then becoming enraged enough to throw a baby across a room just because it was crying,” Judd said.
The sheriff added that he does not believe marijuana is a harmless drug, and that this horrific case proves it.
“This is just another example of marijuana abuse linked to child abuse,” the sheriff said.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office said the incident happened in the early morning hours on Friday, June 6. That was when deputies arrested Finlayson, who lives at 5600 Cypress Gardens Road in Winter Haven, and charged him with aggravated child abuse. Deputies say Finlayson had thrown the 11-month old baby across a room. According to the sheriff’s office, the baby suffered a skull fracture, two broken wrists and five fractured ribs.
Donna C. Wood, the public information officer for the sheriff’s office, reported that the baby had been left in Finlayson’s care while the child’s mother went to the store on Thursday night.
“When the mother returned around 7 p.m., the baby was unresponsive,” Wood noted in her report. “The mother questioned Finlayson, who told her the baby had hit its head on a play pen.”
The mother rushed her baby to Winter Haven Hospital, and after examining the baby, hospital staff contacted the sheriff’s office.
Finlayson was questioned by detectives, and according to Wood, he admitted using marijuana.
The suspect told detectives that “he had smoked a ‘blunt and a half’ of marijuana on Wednesday, and had been up the night before, and that he ‘lost it’ and in a moment of rage and frustration threw the baby across the room when he could not stop the baby’s cries,” Wood wrote in her report. “Finlayson told detectives he told the baby, ‘I’ll give you something to cry about,’ before throwing the baby into the air toward the end of a bed causing the baby to hit face first on the floor.”
Deputies also reported that Finlayson admitted to them that on a few other occasions, he had yelled at the baby in an attempt to “scare” the infant into being quiet.
Finlayson has a prior criminal record. He was arrested in June 2013 by Winter Haven Police for battery, criminal mischief and tampering with or harassing a witness.
He was booked into the Polk County Jail on the aggravated child abuse charge, on no bond.
The baby is in stable condition. The infant was transported to St. Joseph’s Hospital BayCare System in Tampa for continued medical treatment.
Earlier this year, the Florida Legislature approved a bill to allow patients with cancer and who have conditions that result in chronic seizures to use cannabis as part of their medical treatment. Patients can administer the medicine through pills, oils, vaporization or by smoking it.
In November, Florida voters could decide to go a step further, by approving Amendment Two.
Known as the “Use of Marijuana for Certain Medical Conditions” measure, it would allow individuals suffering from numerous illnesses — including cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis, among others — to use marijuana if their physicians determine that its health benefits outweigh any possible risks.
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