US National Security Agency

NSA official charged with beating adopted son, 3, to death

Former combat Marine who became head of the NSA's Korea division faces first-degree murder charge after alleged attack at Maryland home

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 February, 2014, 9:31pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 February, 2014, 9:31pm

A United States intelligence official has been charged with beating his adopted three-year-old Korean son to death.

Brian O'Callaghan, 36, a former Marine, is said to have repeatedly struck the child so hard he died two days later.

It was a terrible tragedy … His family know he is incapable of the crimes

Assistant State's Attorney Donna Fenton listed injuries to the boy's head and back as O'Callaghan was charged with first-degree murder and child abuse.

"It was an absolutely horrific crime on an absolutely innocent young victim," Fenton said at a hearing at Montgomery County District Court in Maryland.

"Basically this child was beaten to death from head to toe."

But O'Callaghan's lawyer, Steven McCool, told the court: "This was a terrible, terrible tragedy and not a crime."

Referring to O'Callaghan's wife, Jennifer, and other relatives at the hearing, McCool added: "They know he is incapable of committing the crimes alleged."

After serving as a Marine reservist in Kosovo and Iraq, O'Callaghan worked for the National Security Agency, where he was chief of the Korea division.

At home in Damascus, Maryland, he and his wife had one son, now seven. They worked through Catholic Charities to qualify to adopt a child with special needs and adopted Hyun-su from South Korea in October. The family called him Madoc.

For three months, Jennifer O'Callaghan was the boy's primary carer, said police. In January, O'Callaghan went on leave to care for Madoc while his wife went back to work.

On January 31, she went to New Jersey and he and their sons stayed at home. According to Fenton, during the night of January 31, O'Callaghan beat Madoc.

He eventually moved his injured son from a bed to a blanket and cleaned bodily fluids from inside the home, finally taking Madoc to hospital, where he died on February 3.

An autopsy confirmed injuries consistent with being beaten, Fenton said. Among them was a fracture at the base of skull, swelling of the brain and wounds to other parts of the body.

There was also "blunt impact to the back from a triangular shaped object", Fenton said.

Detective Mike Carin wrote in court papers, summarising his conversation with O'Callaghan, that O'Callaghan said he had helped Madoc take a shower.

"After the shower, Madoc slipped in the bathtub, falling backwards. As he fell, he hit his shoulder. Brian consoled him and he went to bed," Carin wrote.

But at 4pm the next day, O'Callaghan checked on his younger son and saw pink stains on the bedding and mucus coming from the boy's nose.

O'Callaghan said he changed the sheets and returned later to check on the boy and found his condition had worsened.

He said he washed the boy in a bathtub and eventually took him to hospital.

"Brian O'Callaghan could not provide an explanation" for the injuries, Carin wrote.

The district judge, William Simmons, ordered O'Callaghan be detained without bond.