A Lawrence police detective testified today that the mother of 23-month-old Eric Brewer told him that "I was so drunk" after going to a bar the night of Feb. 4 that she didn't remember hearing the cries of her son shortly before the boy died in a southeast Lawrence mobile home.
The detective, Steve Zarnowiec, was one of two Lawrence police officers who testified this morning in preliminary hearings for Eric Brewer's mother and her boyfriend, who have been charged in connection with the child's death.
An autopsy revealed that the child died from a blow that ruptured his liver and caused internal bleeding.
The boy's mother, Wendy Brewer, 25, has been charged with a felony count of involuntary manslaughter. Donald Earl Bruce Jr., 29, has been charged with felony counts of first-degree murder and child abuse.
Testimony in the preliminary hearing was expected to continue this afternoon in Douglas County District Court.
In testimony today and Tuesday, officers said that Bruce and the boy's mother gave statements saying that Bruce had a history of "playing rough" with the boy. They said the mother didn't intervene in the rough play preceding the boy's death.
LAWRENCE Police Detective David Davis said Bruce told him that after Bruce had put Eric to bed, he shook the boy hard to stop him from crying and the boy's head snapped and he stopped breathing. Davis said Bruce told officers he tried to revive the boy by hitting him on the chest and back.
In a written statement voluntarily made by Bruce, Bruce said he then "put my left knee on his stomach and my right knee on his chest and pushed twice. My knee in his stomach gave both times. Eric then did stop crying but was wheezing."
Bruce's statement also said he had too much to drink "and didn't realize I was playing with Eric so rough and I never ever meant to hurt or kill him! I had gotten upset because Eric was still crying and that's why I put my knees on him only to make his stop crying! Nothing else but that!"
Bruce also told said he realized Eric was dead about 4 a.m. Feb. 5, but did not tell anyone about it.
During Tuesday's hearing, Douglas County Coroner Dr. Carol Moddrell testified that she assisted in the autopsy performed by Dr. Kris Sperry, a forensic pathologist.
THE AUTOPSY revealed that Eric's 34-inch body had 182 bruises and nine abrasions. However, his death was caused when a "tremendous blow . . . ripped in half" his liver, Moddrell testified.
"It would have been a tremendously hard, fast blow," Moddrell said. She said she had seen similar injuries in motor vehicle accidents. She said the boy bled to death internally from the blow.
"He could not have survived more than 15 minutes after that injury was inflicted," Moddrell said.
Asked if the liver could have been damaged when Eric was stepped on by a horse a few days earlier, she said that would have been impossible because the boy wouldn't have been able to survive that long.
Moddrell said examinations of the tissue of 13 sample bruises taken from various part of the boy's body indicated all of those bruises were less than 12 hours old. She said she didn't take tissue from the bruise on the boy's forehead, because she didn't want to disfigure him for the funeral.
THIS MORNING, the defense for Wendy Brewer called Dr. Robert W. Hughes, the boy's pediatrician, who described Eric as "a happy, friendly, outgoing boy." He also called him sociable and said he did not talk a lot, but was "aggressive."
Hughes last examined Eric Jan. 28, and the boy had an ear infection and a scrotal injury. Hughes said he was told the scrotal injury was caused by straddling the side of a bathtub.
Under cross examination, Hughes said he did not notice any unusual bruises.
Ann Dorrell, a medical assistant in Hughes' office, said that at the Jan. 28 appointment Eric "seemed fine. He came in the office and was running around."
Dorrell also said she saw nothing unusual in the mother and child's interaction.