NEWTON — After two hours of contested testimony Friday, a prosecutor summarized why he thought Chad Carr should be tried for murder in the death of 19-month-old Vincent Hill.
Harvey County Attorney David Yoder told Judge Richard Walker that Carr was alone with Vincent the day he died; that the toddler suffered multiple, severe blunt-force injuries; that the North Newton boy most likely died from suffocation and that Carr admitted that in previous instances he stuck a rag into or briefly put a hand over Vincent's mouth to stifle his crying.
Defense attorney Charlie O'Hara raised questions about the timing of the injuries and said his client was asleep all that day.
O'Hara said that Vincent's mother, who was away from the home that day, was the child's caregiver. She also has been charged with battering and abusing her son.
Walker ruled that Yoder had shown sufficient evidence to take Carr to trial on a charge of first-degree murder, one count of aggravated battery and one count of child abuse.
Carr pleaded not guilty. A pretrial hearing is set for Aug. 18.
One thing was not contested: Vincent had multiple injuries. Some injuries appeared to be recent, and some older.
When an ambulance brought Vincent to Newton Medical Center's emergency room the afternoon of March 27, pediatrician Audrey Roberts saw the damage. A partial list of the injuries Roberts saw:
Eyes swollen shut, blood leaking from an eardrum, retinal hemorrhages, deep mouth cuts, lots of fresh purplish-blue bruises, a broken collarbone, a distended abdomen, extensive bruising over the spine, newer and older leg fractures, and a toenail halfway ripped off.
Roberts, who had been the pediatrician who cared for Vincent when he was born, never saw a sign of life in his body after he arrived that March day.
She pronounced him dead after seven minutes.
No child that young could climb high enough and fall, or run fast enough into something and have those kinds of injuries, she said.
O'Hara suggested that some of the injuries could have occurred from Vincent falling down the carpeted stairs at the duplex. Carr had told a sheriff's investigator that the boy fell down the stairs the day before and cried but that he was OK.
But Roberts said a fall on the stairs would not explain many of the injuries she saw.
O'Hara kept questioning the timing. Roberts said some of the injuries could have been hours old, others days old.
Carr told the investigator that he went to bed at 4 a.m. on March 27 after putting Vincent to bed at 9 the night before. He said that Vincent's mother, Katheryn Nycole Dale, whispered to Carr about 9 a.m. that she was going to a baby shower in Wichita that Saturday with Vincent's younger sibling. Carr said he woke up around 3 to 3:30 that afternoon to a text message from Dale asking whether Vincent was OK.
When Carr went to check, he said he found the boy not breathing and called 911 and began CPR.
Sheriff's investigator Robert Guest testified that when he asked Carr about disciplining Vincent, Carr said at times in the past he shoved a rag into the toddler's mouth when he cried loudly and would sometimes briefly cup his hand over the boy's mouth. Carr also said he had tied the boy's hands behind his back, Guest testified.
Guest said that when he asked Carr about the boy's injuries, Carr said they came from falling down the stairs.
Guest noted that Carr had redness or bruising on his knuckles. Carr said he had injured his hands at work.
Carr denied hitting the child that day, Guest said.
Scott Kipper, a deputy Sedgwick County coroner, testified that an autopsy and follow-up examination showed that Vincent died from a brain injury caused by a lack of oxygen most likely from suffocation.
It's possible something could have been put into or over the boy's mouth, blocking his airway, and it appeared that the boy's lips could have been pressed hard against his teeth, Kipper said.
He said the brain injury was associated with multiple blunt-force injuries over Vincent's body.
Kipper ruled the death a homicide.