Centano was arrested Tuesday by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and charged with second-degree murder and child abuse, according to documents provided by the sheriff’s office.
Police from Buckeye, Arizona, were called to the Phoenix Children’s Hospital on June 13, 2017, after receiving a report that Centano’s son was found unresponsive and pronounced dead at the hospital, according to the probable cause statement released by the sheriff’s office.
But after an autopsy found his son died of complications with head trauma ― including a subdural hematoma, a subdural hemorrhage, a subaracnoid hemorrhage and bilateral retinal hemorrhages ― the death was ruled a homicide, the report said.
The autopsy also found the bleeding inside his skull happened less than 24 hours before he died. But the medical examiner found no skull fractures or neck injuries.
Centano told police that he was home alone with his son for 20 minutes, and left him face down on the master bed briefly while he went down the hall to get shower items from the bathroom.
When Centano came back after a minute or two, he told police, he found his son unresponsive on the bed.
However, Centano also told staff at the Abrazo emergency room in Buckeye ― where his son was taken before being transported to the children’s hospital ― that he took a shower before finding his son unresponsive, the report said.
The report also said that when police examined their home, the shower items Centano told police he went to get had not been removed from the hallway bathroom.
Centano also told police that the family’s two dogs were on the bed with the baby when he returned, the report said, and suggested that the dogs jumped on the boy and caused the brain bleeding. But the report said the baby had no visible injuries suggesting a large dog had jumped on him.
The police report also said Centano told an investigator he had previously seen dog scratches on his son’s face. But his wife told police she had never seen any face scratches, aside from when the baby had scratched himself.
Centano allegedly told police that he “ran to the front desk and yelled for help when he arrived in the ER,” the report said.
But video surveillance from the ER and accounts from ER staff showed he waited his turn while another patient registered at the front desk, the report said.
Police also were told that Centano stood, bouncing the baby, until the ER staff saw how bad the baby looked, the report said.
“Throughout the investigation John made several inconsistant [sic] statements and repeatedly blamed the dogs,” the report said.
Centano denied hurting his son or causing him any kind of injury, the report said.
The police report said Centano and his wife were the only people who were around their son during the 24 hours before his death. They both had proper-fitting car seats, and denied being in or near an auto accident with their son in the car.
Maj. Rebecca Heyse, a spokeswoman for the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke, confirmed Centano is a maintainer there. Heyse said the Office of Special Investigations has an open investigation into the case. OSI declined to comment.
Heyse said Centano has served about six and a half years in the Air Force. The report said he has been with the Air Force for three years.
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.