AUBURN – A Wilton man accused of actions leading to the death of a 17-month-old child had his first court appearance today, in Androscoggin County Superior Court. He was not asked to enter a plea.
David Cook, 25, has been charged with manslaughter, a Class A felony, following an investigation into the Nov. 29 death of his girlfriend’s son, Matteo Hanson. A police affidavit indicates that Cook told investigators that Hanson died as the result of a fall down a flight of stairs in a two-story apartment, and that Hanson was either pushed by his three-year-old sister or fell accidentally on his own.
However, the state’s Medical Examiner’s Office has said that their examination of Hanson led them to believe that his injuries were the result of severe force, and could not have occurred via a fall. They also say the autopsy indicated signs of half-healed injuries, including rib fractures and contusions, as well as a fracture on the back of the child’s skull.
Cook appeared in the Auburn court because a superior court justice was not available in Franklin County.
Those facing felony charges are not asked to enter pleas during initial appearances. A grand jury must first indict Cook; if they do so, he will then be arraigned and asked to enter a plea on the charges handed down by the grand jury.
The same bail remains in effect for Cook, who would need to put up $50,000 cash or $100,000 single surety to be released from custody. There are also “no contact” provisions in place between Cook and children younger than 12 years of age, as well as his girlfriend, Brandy Swett.
Androscoggin Deputy District Attorney Craig Turner represented the state at today’s hearing. Deputy Attorney General William Stokes, who is the chief of the criminal division within the Attorney General’s Office, said that the local district attorney’s office had offered to stand in for the state for the initial appearance.
Stokes also said that the state would be represented by Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson if the case moved forward through the court system. In Maine, the Attorney General’s Office handles most cases involving deaths considered by authorities to be suspicious.
Cook’s next scheduled court appearance is on March 20, in the Franklin County Superior Court.
“In the meanwhile,” Stokes said, “this will be presented to the next grand jury. He could face an arraignment earlier than that [March 20 date].”
Today’s appearance was originally scheduled for last Friday, but that hearing was postponed when Cook became violently ill after being arrested. While being processed at the Franklin County Jail, police say that he lost consciousness. They now believe that Cook swallowed a prescription medicine belonging to a family member prior to being arrested by a Maine State Police detective.
A NorthStar Emergency Medical Service ambulance took Cook to Franklin Memorial Hospital where he stayed overnight. On Dec. 27, he was transferred to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, where his condition eventually improved from “fair” to “stable.”
More information about the case can be found here.