Maine Mom Hopes Diagnosis of Rare Syndrome Will Exonerate Dad of Child Abuse Charges
Brandon Ross is accused of abusing his then-2-month-old son Ryder.
— -- Two Maine parents are fighting to prove their young son suffers from a rare medical condition that could explain his multiple fractures and help clear his father of child abuse charges.
Prosecutors have accused Brandon Ross, 25, of injuring his son, Ryder, when the boy was just 2 months old. Ross was indicted in June 2014 on 12 counts of child abuse, and is awaiting trial. If convicted, he could face years in prison.
Ross has denied ever harming Ryder. He and his wife, Cynthia Ross, Ryder’s mother, have set out to clear his name. They said their son was diagnosed with a rare syndrome called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), which can cause extreme elasticity of the skin and flexible joints that are unstable and prone to dislocation.
“This is my new job. My new job is to re-unite my family,” Cynthia Ross, 24, told ABC News’ “20/20.”
Ryder, now 1, and their daughter, Rozalynn, now 3, were taken from the couple and placed with Cynthia Ross' father, a registered foster parent. Brandon Ross is only allowed to see the children twice a week with state supervision. Although she's never been charged, Cynthia Ross is not allowed to be alone with her kids and visits them with her mother.
It all started in 2014, just two months after Ryder was born, when Brandon and Cynthia were giving him and Rozalynn baths.
“I pulled Ryder out of the bath, and I was putting his lotion on and I noticed that there was a difference between his legs,” Cynthia Ross recalled. “I showed them to Brandon and he was like, ‘One of his legs is swollen.’”
They brought Ryder to the doctor, who took X-rays and saw something disturbing.
“The doctor said, ‘I've been standing outside the door not wanting to tell you guys this, but there is a fracture in Ryder’s leg. We’re sending you to Maine Medical Center to be evaluated for child abuse,’” said Cynthia Ross.
X-rays revealed he had fractures in his right clavicle, a probable fracture in his left clavicle, probable fractures in his ribs, a fracture in each ankle, and a lumbar compression fracture in his spine, Cynthia Ross said.
“I was dumbfounded,” Brandon Ross told “20/20.” “I mean, we were so delicate with him. We already have a 3-year-old, so we know how to handle babies.”
Ryder stayed in the hospital for six days, and the Rosses said suspicion quickly mounted against them. The doctor’s report noted that the fractures were “caused by ... squeezing or possibly shaking” and that Ryder had been injured by an adult on “more than one occasion while in the care of both parents,” according to the doctor report Cythnia Ross gave to ABC News.
“We were under a microscope, and then we realized that they were no longer looking for a medical explanation when the case worker showed up to the hospital and said, ‘We’re seeking custody of your kids,’” Cynthia Ross said.
Though Brandon Ross said he was never told why, police zeroed in on him, and he was arrested. Not believing her husband could have abused their children, Cynthia Ross set out to see if something else could have caused her baby's fractures.
“He couldn't fight for himself, and I knew I needed to step up and be his voice and figure out what actually happened,” Cynthia Ross said.
While searching for answers, Cynthia Ross' grandmother saw Texas parents Bria and Andrew Huber on Katie Couric's daytime TV show talking about their infant daughter, who they said also suffered unexplained fractures, so Cynthia Ross reached out to them.