AUGUSTA — An Augusta man pleaded guilty Tuesday to endangering the welfare of a child in connection with an incident last September in which his 2-year-old son ended up floating facedown in the Kennebec River.

Christopher J. Norwood, 32, entered the plea under the Alford doctrine, indicating — as the judge explained — that while he does not agree with the state’s version of events, a jury or fact-finder hearing the evidence could find him guilty of the charge.

The disposition was deferred for 12 months. If Norwood meets a set of conditions, including taking a parenting class, he will be allowed to withdraw the plea and the case will be dismissed. If not, he can be sentenced up to a maximum of 364 days in prison.

Norwood’s attorney, Scott Hess, told Justice William Stokes that the event was “a mistake my client feels terrible about.” Hess said Norwood believes he did not “recklessly endanger” the health, safety or welfare of a child, as the statute is phrased.

There was no discussion of the facts of the case and no mention of the river or the boy’s condition Tuesday in open court at the Capital Judicial Center.

The prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Paul Cavanaugh, offered to provide more details on the record, but Stokes said it was not necessary because the case was a misdemeanor.


Stokes told Norwood, “Make sure you comply with those conditions.”

Norwood is to return to court June 5, 2018, for the end of the deferred disposition.

Later Tuesday, outside the courtroom, District Attorney Maeghan Maloney said, “Thankfully the child did make a full recovery. There’s no lasting physical damage; there may be some emotional damage.”

She said the state offered a deferred disposition to Norwood as a way to avoid a conviction on the charge.

“I don’t want the charge in the case to be a deciding factor in reunification efforts involving the family,” she said.

Maloney said the child is in the custody of the state Department of Health and Human Services and placed with grandparents.


“Whether or not the family can be reunified is best left to the DHHS,” she added. “For us, it’s enough to show Mr. Norwood you do have to be responsible as a parent.” Hess also commented after the hearing.

“It was a parent’s worst nightmare,” he said, adding, “Luckily we were able to reach an outcome that was appropriate under the circumstances, and (the boy) is doing fine.”

Police and rescuers were sent to the East Side Boat Landing near City Center Sept. 16, 2016, in response to a report that a child was drowning.

A Dresden man, Sean Scanlon, who was at a riverfront park with his own 4-year-old son, heard people on the west side of the river screaming about a child in the water. He saw the child, so he jumped into the water, pulled the child out and began resuscitation efforts.

The boy was wearing a hoodie and a diaper, and some witnesses told police the child had been playing and swimming along the east bank of the river. The boy was taken to MaineGeneral Medical Center for treatment.

Scanlon said nobody in the park at the time of the incident except for him and his son. He said he was told that police officers went door-to-door in the area and found the boy’s father asleep on the couch in a nearby residence. At the time, Augusta police declined to comment on the identity of the parents or their whereabouts at the time of the incident.


They charged Norwood about 10 days later following an investigation by Detective Tori Tracy.

Norwood had pleaded not guilty to the charge in November 2016.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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