Gordon Collins-Faunce is scheduled to appear in court today to face a murder charge in the death of his infant son, which has raised questions among child welfare advocates about whether signs of abuse in the household were ignored.

Collins-Faunce, 23, will face a charge of depraved indifference murder during his initial appearance in York County Superior Court in Alfred. He is accused of assaulting 10-week-old Ethan Henderson and causing the brain injuries that killed him.

Six weeks before Ethan died, Collins-Faunce broke the baby’s arm after getting frustrated while changing his diaper, police say.

Health care professionals who treated that injury were obligated to report it to the state Department of Health and Human Services if they had any suspicion that it was the result of abuse or neglect, under state law.

“Any health care provider that looks at that kid — that means the medical assistant who takes the kid back or the nurse who takes vital signs in an ER — and even has an inkling of abuse and neglect is mandated to report it,” said Gretchen Pianka, a pediatrician who works at the York County Community Health Care Center in Sanford.

“There should have been at least half a dozen people who should have seen that (broken arm). One must have said, ‘God this is strange,’” she said. “It’s supposed to be a safety net. It sounds like that safety net just broke down here.”

It isn’t clear exactly what treatment Ethan received for the broken arm, or who treated him.

If the DHHS was alerted to the injury, there is no indication that it was investigated. A DHHS worker who met with Maine State Police after Ethan was hospitalized Saturday did not indicate that the DHHS had a report of the broken arm.

Collins-Faunce told police that he felt overwhelmed when Ethan and his 3-year-old half sister were crying Saturday morning in their home at 521 Limerick Road in Arundel. He said he grabbed Ethan by the head, squeezed it and threw him into a chair, according to an affidavit prepared in support of his arrest.

When Ethan had trouble breathing after being thrown, Collins-Faunce called 911. Ethan was taken to Southern Maine Medical Center in Biddeford, then transferred to Maine Medical Center in Portland. He died early Tuesday after being taken off life support.

The police affidavit includes a comment from a DHHS worker, who said the department received a referral from the day care provider for Ethan’s half sister. The report said the girl was “covered in bruises” and Ethan and his twin, Lucas, were sick but not getting medical attention.

The affidavit does not indicate when that referral was received or what the DHHS did about it. Social workers, accompanied by members of the York County Sheriff’s Office, went to the house and removed the other two children after Saturday’s incident.

The DHHS has declined to comment on the case.

Advocates say the department probably should have been notified when Ethan, at 4 weeks old, was brought in for treatment of the broken arm, what his father described to police as a hairline fracture.

“If anyone knows of a broken arm and they’re a mandated reporter, they would be required by law to report that,” said Leah Paltanawick, prevention educator with Kids Free to Grow, a child abuse prevention group in York County. “You don’t just report child abuse. You report any suspicion of child abuse.”

Collins-Faunce initially told police that Ethan’s arm got stuck between the crib rail and the bumper and he snapped it when he picked him up. Collins-Faunce later changed his story and said he had broken his son’s arm in frustration.

“Maybe he was very convincing in his lie,” Paltanawick said. “It’s not up to the mandated reporter to try to determine abuse.”

Paltanawick, who gives classes for mandated reporters including day care providers and school teachers, said it’s helpful to understand the family situation.

“If you know there’s twins in the house and you know there’s another child, you know there’s an awful lot of stress,” she said. “If you’re seeing injuries on a 4-week-old baby, that should be a red flag.”

Pianka, the pediatrician, who is vice president of the Kids Free to Grow board of directors, said there can be unintended consequences to reporting possible abuse.

“Most of the time, when I call DHHS on a family, I lose the family,” she said. “I never see them again. I think some families are looking for providers who won’t notice bruises.

“I’ve seen kids with burns on their hands and (the parents) have a really good story, but I say, ‘I’m sorry. I just have to do this. It’s my license. It’s my job,’ ” Pianka said.

Failure to follow the state law that requires people in certain positions to report suspected child abuse  is a civil violation punishable by a fine of as much as $500.

Myra Broadway, executive director of the Maine State Board of Nursing, said she would hope that any failure to comply with the law would be referred to licensing authorities for review.

Pianka said she encounters parents who were abused as children — as Collins-Faunce was, according to the police affidavit — and are hitting their children. “They’re doing the exact thing they don’t want to do because it happened to them,” she said.

Broadway said she tries to suggest other approaches without alienating parents. “It seems like there is a window of opportunity. If you could reach them, you might help them get some new tools.”

Family members plan to hold a candlelight memorial for Ethan at 7 p.m. Saturday at his home in Arundel.

A memorial fund has been set up. Donations may be made to: Ethan Henderson Memorial Fund, care of Saco & Biddeford Savings Institution, 50 Industrial Park Road, Saco, ME 04072.

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

[email protected]


Correction: This story was revised at 12:28 p.m., May 11, 2012, to reflect that violating the law mandating reporting by people who have contact with children in their professional capacity is a civil violation punishable by a fine of up to $500.