Man admits fatally throwing toddler against toilet

Joshua A. Howard writes a letter saying he deserves 'nothing less than (the) maximum punishment'

Joshua A. Howard appears in court in March 2014. (KOIN)
Joshua A. Howard appears in court in March 2014. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) – An Oregon man has pleaded guilty to manslaughter and criminal mistreatment in the death of his girlfriend’s 2-year-old son.

Under Friday’s plea deal, 30-year-old Joshua Howard will be sentenced next month to 20 years in state prison.

The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Howard told detectives he got mad and threw the toddler against the front rim of the toilet. The boy died from his injuries two days later. The child’s mother was not home at the time of the incident.

According to court records: the victim, Coltin Salsbury was killed on March 4, 2014 when Howard threw the boy “head first” into a toilet at the Unicorn Motel. Howard told homicide detectives that he was “pissed off” because Salsbury had thrown up on the bed. One of the first responding police officers checked on Salsbury and thought he detected a slight pulse. The officer started and continued to perform CPR on the boy until paramedics arrived.

Howard initially told police that he was giving Salsbury a shower in the bathtub while the child’s mother was visiting a friend, according to court documents state. Howard said that he turned on the water and left to bathroom so Salsbury could wash himself. According to court documents, Howard claimed he was in the living area of the motel room when he heard a ‘thump” from the bathroom.

Coltin Salisbury, 2, died March 6, 2014. (Courtesy photo to KOIN 6 News)
(Courtesy photo to KOIN 6 News)

Salsbury was rushed to Doernbecher’s Children Hospital at Oregon Health & Sciences University. Doctors determined that the boy had a skull fracture that was producing “significant” brain swelling and bleeding, according to court documents. Doctors also observed numerous other injuries including retinal hemorrhages to his eyes, a left jaw fracture, bruises around the neck, a bruise on the spine. Despite emergency surgery, the child did not survive.

Howard gave detectives several explanations of how Salsbury was injured, according to court documents. Each story, police said, failed to match the physical evidence inside the motel room or the injuries to Salsbury.

At one point during a police interview, Howard mentioned that he had experience with mixed martial arts style cage fighting, according to court documents. Howard then went on to tell Portland Police Homicide Detective Mark Sponhauer that his (Howard’s) hands were registered weapons and that he could kill the detective simply by hitting him hard.

Eventually, Howard acknowledged that he had lost his temper and threw Salsbury head first into the front rim of the toilet. “(Howard) said that he left (Salsbury) in the bathroom because he was so pissed that he didn’t even care,” according to court documents filed by Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Chuck Mickley.

Howard wrote in a letter that “I deserve nothing less than (the) maximum punishment for hurting that innocent little guy,” court documents state.

According to Oregon State Deputy Medical Examiner Dr. Larry Lewman, Salsbury’s cause of death was blunt force head trauma. Lewman ruled the death a homicide.

Clatsop County District Attorney Joshua Marquis told KOIN 6 News last year that his office and Astoria Police were looking into allegations of misconduct involving Howard. No criminal charges have ever been filed in Clatsop County against Howard.

KOIN 6 News contributed to this report

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