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Felony charges filed against dad accused of leaving baby in hot tub

Sept. 4, 2009

The man whose infant daughter nearly drowned in a Wauwatosa hotel room hot tub as he drank beer and talked on the phone has been charged in with felony counts of child neglect and recklessly endangering safety.

Gregory Knitter, 44, of the western Wisconsin community of Cornell, faces a maximum of 16 years in prison and $35,000 in fines, if convicted.

Knitter was watching his 14-month-old daughter on Aug. 28 at the Super 8, 115 N. Mayfair Road, while his girlfriend, the baby's mother, visited her 3-year-old son who was recovering from heart surgery at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.

Authorities say that between 4 and 8 p.m., he drank about 10 beers and took prescription medication. Then he decided to let his daughter go "swimming." He left her alone for a few minutes while he talked on the phone. When he returned, she was floating face down in the water.

A few more details about the incident to light in the criminal complaint filed Thursday in Milwaukee County Circuit Court.

According to the complaint:

There was likely a lengthy time delay between when the Knitter found the baby floating face down in the water and the paramedics' arrival at the hotel.

Knitter told police he flung the phone across the room when he ran to the tub to help his daughter. He performed CPR until she vomited water and snacks she had eaten before she went into the hot tub. He then tried to find the phone, but couldn't so he went to the front desk leaving the baby alone in the room.

The front desk receptionist told officers he arrived shirtless with food on his chest and appeared "dazed" to the extent that he couldn't even correctly push the buttons on the desk phone. He handed her a paper plate with his girlfriend's phone number and asked her to dial. It wasn't until the baby's mother returned to the hotel that 911 was called.

The first responding officer described the baby as "drifting in and out of consciousness" and said she did not look well.

The baby was treated in the intensive care unit for water in her lungs, but has since been released from Children's Hospital. Child welfare workers continue to investigate the family, which includes the girlfriend's two other children, ages 3 and 5.

He was scheduled to appear in court this morning and be taken into custody to await trial.

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