Entrusted to care for his girlfriend’s newborn daughter, Branden K. Harms was anything but gentle.
Standing handcuffed in a 4th Judicial District courtroom on Tuesday, the Fort Carson scout admitted to a harrowing chain of events in which he raised his hand against 4-month-old Ava Bermudez of Fountain – ultimately inflicting injuries severe enough to kill her.
As relatives of the slain infant wept in the gallery, Harms, 28, recounted how he “lost control” when he couldn’t keep Ava calm on a night in April 2016 when he agreed to watch her.
Taking a deep breath in court, Harms described how he “almost saw black” and then began to “excessively spank her.”
“Sometime after that, I began to choke her,” he said. “Further after that, when I was putting her in her crib, I wasn’t gentle.” The former soldier suggested that he threw the girl into her crib with enough force to split its wooden bottom, sending the infant to the floor beneath.
“After that,” he added, “I kind of snapped to, and it was too late.”
In pleading guilty to child abuse resulting in death, Harms also admitted that he withheld medical care knowing the child was injured. He faces 40-48 years in prison when he is sentenced on May 16.
Harms is an Afghanistan War veteran who served as a scout in a Fort Carson unit at the time of the child’s death. A post spokeswoman couldn’t be reached for an update about his duty status.
He claimed after his April 19 arrest by Fountain police that the girl was injured when the floor of the crib gave way as he put her down for a nap.
In binding Harms over for trial in September, 4th Judicial District Judge David A. Gilbert all but dismissed the explanation, calling it “wholly inconsistent” with injuries to the child, including bruises on her head, side and buttocks, a healing rib fracture and two brain bleeds, all apparently inflicted by separate blows.
Investigators say the injuries were inflicted during a four-hour window while the child’s mother – his live-in girlfriend, Jessica Bermudez – went out with a friend.
She told police she arrived home and knew something was wrong when her daughter didn’t grip her finger like normal – a habit she had whether she was sleeping or awake.