A jury trial in a local felony murder and child abuse case continued Tuesday with testimony from law enforcement and medical personnel, as well as some family members involved in the case.
Bourbon County District Judge Mark Ward is presiding over the case of Anthony M. Anderson, who faces charges of first-degree felony murder and child abuse for his alleged involvement in the April 2015 death of 6-month-old Aiden J. Osborn.
Anderson pleaded not guilty to the charges in October.
The prosecution is represented by Adam Zentner with the Kansas Attorney General’s Office and Bourbon County Attorney Justin Meeks. Anderson’s attorney is Robert Myers, a Columbus lawyer.
The court heard testimony from seven witnesses who were questioned by attorneys in the case during Tuesday’s proceedings.
The first witness to take the stand was Chris Anderson, the defendant’s brother, who testified he was at Anderson’s residence the morning of April 26, 2015, the date the alleged incident occurred. Chris Anderson testified he was at the house about one hour and saw the infant “getting fed” and was “fine.”
Chris Anderson said he had been cleaning his truck at the time and “went in the house quickly,” where Anthony was feeding the baby in the living room. Chris Anderson later went to a gathering at an area lake and testified he received a phone call from a cousin that the police were at the defendant’s house.
Chris Anderson testified he then tried to reach his brother and talked later with police.
Keira Lamb, the infant’s mother and the defendant’s boyfriend at the time, testified that she “faintly” remembered April 26, 2015. Lamb testified that the infant was healthy, “always active” and had no major health issues. The baby did have a belly button hernia that Lamb said doctors couldn’t address until the baby was older.
Lamb testified she was at work the day of the alleged incident and had left the infant alone with the defendant. Lamb said she spent most of her time at work, leaving the defendant as the baby’s primary caretaker. The defendant’s parents also helped with the infant.
Lamb said she received a call at work that the baby had been taken to the hospital and she left work to go to the hospital. The baby had been in a bouncy seat and was “happy” and “not crying.” She testified that the baby never seemed in pain when lifting the infant’s legs to change his diaper.
The infant was later transported by medical helicopter to Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., where he died at 10:39 p.m. April 28, 2015.
Lamb testified that the infant’s relationship with the defendant was “mostly OK.” She said the baby “would fuss” when in the defendant’s care. Referring to a prior incident in which the baby had rolled off a bed in the house onto a carpeted floor, Lamb said the baby was crying and and she “picked him up” but the infant was not injured. Lamb testified that incident occurred “at least a couple of months” prior to the alleged incident on April 26.
Lamb was questioned about the baby’s health and she testified there was no congestion and the baby was not taking any medications. Lamb also testified that if she and the defendant were both at work, the defendant took the baby with him on the mail route he worked at the time.
Myers questioned Lamb about allegations of abuse and neglect against Lamb, to which Lamb said they were “allegations.”
When asked by Zentner if she had ever hit the infant, yanked his legs, threw him on the floor or off a bed or couch, Lamb responded she had not. Zentner also asked Lamb if the allegations against her had proven false. Myers responded by saying there was “not enough evidence to substantiate” those claims, “not that they had proven false.”
Fort Scott Police Department Det. Sgt. Jason Pickert testified he became involved with the case on April 26, 2015 when he was informed of an EMS call and was called to assist with an investigation into the incident.
Pickert said he went to Mercy Hospital where the baby was first transported and also later talked with family members. Pickert testified he sent what are called preservation letters to cell phone companies to obtain the defendant’s cell phone records. Pickert said the records were obtained to be “thorough” and “sometimes there is evidence to be found.”
Pickert testified he did not find anything noteworthy in the cell phone records.
As part of the investigation, Pickert testified subpoenas were also sent for medical records and mental health records for the defendant and Keira Lamb, the infant’s mother. This was done to get more background on the family, Pickert said.
A search warrant was also served for the residence on Broadway Street. Pickert testified he interviewed the defendant at the house April 28 and a video walkthrough of the house was conducted with the defendant present. The jury and others in the courtroom were able to watch a recording of the brief video after court personnel cleared up some technical difficulties.
During the video, the defendant was often emotional as he led police officers through the house to show where the baby was laid on the couch, as well as other parts of the house including a bedroom at the rear of the house. Pickert testified about an incident prior to April 26 in which the infant had fallen off a bed in the house but was not hurt. A doll was used during the walkthrough to show how and where the baby was laid at different spots in the house. The baby had also been in a bouncy seat the day of the alleged incident, according to testimony.
According to the defendant, he was cleaning a bathroom in the house when he “heard a thud and a squawk,” and went into the living room to find the infant on the floor and not breathing, Pickert testified. The 911 call was made from a neighbor’s residence across the street. The defendant had picked up the baby and gone to the neighbor’s house to get help, according to testimony.
Police officers collected the couch and part of the flooring underneath the house as evidence in the case. Pickert said he was not sure of the amount of time between when the baby fell off the bed and the alleged fall from the couch.
FSPD Det. Brian Thurston also took the stand and testified he became involved with the case when he conducted a phone interview with Chris Anderson on April 30. Thurston said Chris Anderson was asked about his whereabouts on April 26, to which Anderson responded he had been “working on his truck.”
Chris Anderson told Thurston that the defendant had been holding the baby, who was asleep at the time Chris was at the house.
Thurston testified police made some follow-up calls and also visited the lake area where Chris Anderson and some family members were April 26.
Police collected and took photos of three layers of flooring from inside the house. Pieces of the flooring were entered as exhibits and evidence in the case. Thurston testified he received the evidence from Pickert, who is also the evidence custodian for the FSPD. Thurston was also asked about the process for signing evidence in and out, and the difference in the layers of flooring was discussed. Thurston said once the couch and flooring were extracted from the house, they were “booked in as evidence” and the evidence has been “locked and secured” ever since.
When asked if it was discovered the baby had any health issues, Thurston testified the infant had “been sick” or “had a cold.”
FSPD Cpl. Blynn Hill testified he responded to the Broadway residence April 26, 2015 and took photos at the scene. Hill had two brief conversations with the defendant and transported the defendant to the hospital following the alleged incident. Hill testified that the defendant was “upset and crying” and Hill tried to calm him down and obtain information as to what happened at the house. Hill confirmed police were not investigating a crime at that time.
Hill said the defendant told him he had fed the baby and “burped him on his knee” and laid the baby on the couch to sleep while he cleaned the bathroom. Hill testified he was told by hospital personnel the baby had a “brain bleed” and “may not make it.”
Hill testified he was told by his superiors to gather a 24-hour timeline of the defendant’s movements and the infant’s activities and whereabouts during that time frame. Hill said there had been no car accident or injuries to the infant on April 25, when the baby had been in the defendant’s care.
Chris Anderson, the defendant’s parents and Lamb had had all been present in the residence at one point the day of the alleged April 26 incident.
Myers asked Hill if he asked the defendant about injuries to the infant after the defendant rushed the baby to a neighbor’s house. Hill said there was a “little blood on his (infant’s) lip” but that wasn’t explained. Hill testified the defendant was “extremely upset and crying” and “difficult to understand.” Hill said he did not conduct a follow-up interview with the defendant.
The court also heard testimony from Fort Scott firefighter Melvin Lane, who is also a certified EMT. Lane testified he was the first emergency responder to hold the baby at the scene. Lane said when he responded to the scene, he witnessed the defendant “holding a baby, crying and distraught.” Lane said he obtained the baby from the defendant and discovered the infant was “not moving.” Lane testified he then began to assess the infant and check for injuries.
Through a “quick patient assessment,” Lane testified he found no “visible exterior injury” and the baby’s skull “felt normal.” Lane said due to dim lighting in the house, he “couldn’t tell” if there were lesions or cuts on the infant’s body. He said the baby was “barely breathing” and Lane rubbed the baby’s chest in an attempt to stimulate breathing. The infant was “trying to respond” and “starting to get a little alert,” Lane said.
Once the baby started moving, oxygen was then administered to the infant. Lane testified the baby’s alertness was “off and on.” The infant needed to be “transferred immediately” to paramedics so EMTs waited for an ambulance “for advanced treatment,” he said.
When questioned by Myers, Lane testified he was “focused on the airway” and the infant was “initially unresponsive.” Lane also checked the baby’s eyes and pupils but said he had troubles due to the dim lighting. Lane said the baby’s breathing was “up and down” and the goal was to get “breathing more adequate.”
The court also heard testimony Tuesday from Dr. Michael Handler, a forensic neuropathologist who performed an autopsy on the victim. Handler said he conducts forensic autopsies, which start with a “careful external examination” to identify any marks or scars. Measurements of the body are also taken. The body is then opened and organs are examined, Handler said.
Handler’s findings during a medical examination include subdural hemorrhaging, bleeding bridging veins, bruises and a bone fracture, among other injuries, according to Handler’s previous testimony.
During surgery on the baby, doctors removed a large part of the right portion of the infant’s skull to drain the hemorrhage. Other injuries included a retinal hemorrhage on the right eye and a corner fracture on the tibia, Handler testified Tuesday.
Handler testified the bridging veins “caused the bleeding” inside the brain. When asked how this type of injury can occur, Handler said it is typically from “head trauma” and an injury seen in a “shaken baby.” He said the pattern of the hemorrhaging seen on one side is rare, and this is the first type of case like this he’s seen.
“When a baby is shaken, the bridging veins are torn,” he said. “It’s unusual on one side of the brain. It’s usually on both sides. A baby could be thrown into something, affecting one side.”
Handler said the extent of external injuries “depends on the object thrown into.”
Other injuries Handler said were found on the infant’s body were “discoloration on the back of the head” and a “small contusion mid-back” about one inch in size. Handler said he found the injuries to be more typical of a “shaken baby rather than a thrown baby.”
Handler testified the infant was determined to be otherwise healthy and had “no outstanding medical issues.” He also testified the injuries are not consistent with a fall of 16 inches from a couch. Handler also said in cases he has seen of falls from various heights, “none have these type of injuries.”
Myers questioned Handler about the opinions Handler reached in his examination. Myers asked about other causes of retinal hemorrhages.
“There are not many other than trauma,” Handler said, adding retinal hemorrhages at birth are “rare.”
There was also discussion about the differences in infant brains and adult brains, with Handler testifying that infant brains are “softer” and “weaker,” with higher water content than adult brains. Myers also asked what occurs with lack of oxygen to the brain.
“It causes the neurons to die and the brain swells and releases chemicals,” Handler said.
“Can a lack of oxygen cause a retinal hemorrhage?” Myers asked.
“Not in this pattern,” Handler said. “Not in one eye and not the other.”
Handler also said the bone fracture is “not associated with a large amount of bleeding.”
Testimony wrapped up early Tuesday and the trial was scheduled to continue at 9 a.m. today.