Father charged after daughter shows up at day care with bruises


by Chelsea Rabideau


Posted on August 29, 2013 at 11:56 PM

Updated Friday, Aug 30 at 6:54 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) – A handicapped girl showed up at day care with bruises on her face, arms, and legs. Now, her father is accused of abusing her.

Matthew Den Dekker pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges of child abuse and neglect. His attorney said there’s much more to the story and that all the facts are not out.

The little girl’s grandmother said they have all the evidence they need.

Like any proud grandmother, pictures of Debby Cavalcante’s grandchildren sit on just about any available shelf space in her home. There are pictures of her 7-year-old granddaughter Claire, bright and smiling. Then, one day, a few weeks ago, a phone call came from Sproutlings, Claire’s day care. 

“They sent a picture back from Sproutlings to show her face and we just sat on the floor and cried,” Cavalcante said.

Pictures of Claire from Kosair Children’s Hospital show a hand-shaped bruise marking her face.

“I just couldn’t believe it, I just couldn’t believe it,” Cavalcante said, “I still can’t believe it, that somebody would do that to a little child, a defenseless child.”

According to court papers, the day care said Claire had the bruises when she was dropped off Monday morning after a weekend with her father.

“I’m so sorry it happened. I never would’ve thought that anybody would do that, just never would’ve thought it. Claire is so sweet, she is so sweet. If you could know her, she’s just the sweetest little thing,” Cavalcante said.

The day care called Child Protective Services. Metro Police and the Crimes Against Children Unit were also brought in on the case. Cavalcante said she remembers that night at the hospital.

“They ran tests and did X-rays and determined that the wounds were not self-inflicted because Claire couldn’t do it to herself, she’s got cerebral palsy,” Cavalcante said.

Doctors found the bruise on her face was consistent with a high velocity slap mark and Claire couldn’t have made the mark herself. Cavalcante said she believes it was Claire’s own father who hit her.

“You know, she’s an easy target, she needs to be protected. But, I never thought she’d need to be protected from him,” she said.

Dekker’s attorney said the doctors could not determine whether the marks were made by accident.

Claire’s grandmother said the family believes Dekker could have anger issues and they’d like him to get help so he can continue to see his children.