PUNTA GORDA, Fla. - Monday, Punta Gorda Police were summoned to the emergency room at Charlotte Regional Medical Center regarding a possible child abuse incident.
Upon arrival, officers were advised by hospital personnel that a three-year-old female was being treated for injuries to her face and head. The injuries, consisting of deep bruising to the girl's forehead and left cheek, were believed to have been caused by some type of abuse.
Officers interviewed the child's mother who stated that the injury occurred on Thursday, August 12, 2010 at her residence, located in the 1600 block of Yellow Pine Court, Punta Gorda. The mother stated that she was not present at the time of this incident, but that her boyfriend, 29-year-old Joseph Caruso of the 18200 block of Ackerman Avenue, Port Charlotte, was watching both the injured child and her one-year-old son while she was at work. The mother stated that she went to work at approximately 3:00 pm and her daughter was fine with no injuries.
At approximately 7:30 pm, August 12, 2010, she received a text message from Caruso that the injured girl had fallen in the bath tub and hurt her face. The mother returned home from work at approximately 10:00 pm and noted that her daughter had a bruise on the left side of her face, but did not think much of it at the time. The following day, Friday, August 13, 2010 she noticed that the bruise was turning blue and growing in size, almost covering the entire side of the child's face. Over the next few days, the bruise turned to a deep blue / green color and had the shape of three to four fingers and a hand. The mother stated that she believed that her daughter's injury was more that just a fall, but stated she did not want to believe that J. Caruso had harmed her child. Officers asked the injured girl who hurt her and she stated that, "Joe smacked" her.
When the mother returned home from work yesterday, her daughter was in a confused daze and did not even recognize her mother. The child's mother also stated that her daughter had been very sluggish and sleepy over the past few days. Due to above conditions and injuries, the mother took the child to the emergency room for treatment. The mother denied causing the injury to her child and stated that J. Caruso was the only person with her daughter at the time of the incident.
J. Caruso agreed to go to the police department for questioning and was interviewed by detectives. He was subsequently placed under arrest for felony Child Abuse and transported to the Charlotte County Jail. A criminal history check confirmed that J. Caruso was on Department of Corrections Supervision for a Witness Tampering Charge. He was also arrested approximately two weeks prior for Grand Theft and was out of jail on bond on that charge. Due to the past criminal history, to include both felony arrests and convictions, and that this crime was one of violence J. Caruso was turned over to the jail and held with no bond until first appearance. Caruso's booking photo was not available at the time of this release.