Crime

Severely shaken as a baby, he lived to 20. Now his father is charged with murder.

A Clay County grand jury has indicted a 39-year-old man on a second-degree murder charge for an assault on a six-week-old baby in 1998 that led to the victim’s death 20 years later.

Olin Shane Tannery of Excelsior Springs had pleaded guilty in August 1999 to attempted first-degree assault for shaking and squeezing Dominick J. Pittsenbarger when he was six weeks old.

Tannery, who is identified in court documents as Pittsenbarger’s father, was sentenced to 13 years in prison on those charges. He was released from prison in 2007.

Pittsenbarger survived the attack and grew up in Smithville, but died on April 13. He was 20.

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Dominick J. Pittsenbarger Hixson-Klein funeral home

In the indictment issued Tuesday, prosecutors allege that Tannery assaulted Pittsenbarger on Feb. 19, 1998.

In 1998 Clay County prosecutors accused Tannery of attacking the child because he could not get him to be quiet. Tannery picked up the baby, squeezed, shook him and then threw him down. The incident occurred in a home in Kearney.

Pittsenbarger was taken to Children’s Mercy Hospital, where he was diagnosed with multiple rib fractures, a compression fracture of a vertebra, a series of head injuries that were consistent with shaken baby syndrome, and subdural bleeding.

At the time, doctors at Children’s Mercy did not predict the infant was likely to survive. However, Pittsenbarger lived to adulthood, though he suffered severe, permanent brain damage.

The boy was adopted by Wendell H. Pittsenbarger and took his last name.

Through adolescence and into high school, Dominick Pittsenbarger used a wheelchair. When he was a middle school, a coach taught him how to shoot a basketball.

The teenager fell in love with the sport and spent countless hours shooting baskets on a goal at their home, Wendell Pittsenbarger said. He graduated from Smithville High School in 2017.

“I love that boy and still miss him dearly,” the adoptive father said. “I think about him all of the time.”

Tannery is being held in custody on a $500,000 bond on the second-degree murder charge and is scheduled to appear in court on Friday, according to court records.

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