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Archive for Tuesday, February 15, 1994

FATHER CHARGED WITH MURDER IN SUSPECTED CHILD ABUSE DEATH

February 15, 1994

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Psychiatric evaluations were ordered for a man charged with the child-abuse death of his infant son.

A 25-year-old Lawrence man charged with abusing and murdering his 3-week-old son could be a danger to himself, prosecutors said Monday afternoon.

During a court appearance, Steven W. Edwards did not raise his head to look at Judge James W. Paddock as criminal charges were read: first-degree felony murder and abuse of a child.

Paddock set bond at $200,000, and granted a request from Chris Kenney, an assistant district attorney, to order Edwards to undergo mental and physical evaluations at Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center.

Under the circumstances, Kenney said, Edwards could make an attempt on his own life. Edwards is charged with killing his son, Brandon Tyler Edwards, and spent much of his court appearance with hands in front of his face, at times muffling his speech.

Paddock scheduled a preliminary hearing for next Tuesday.

Edwards is suspected of killing his son through abuse inflicted Thursday, before Edwards' mother-in-law called police and reported the child was not breathing.

Brandon was taken from the home at 1004 R.I. to Lawrence Memorial Hospital and then Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., where he died Sunday. Police arrested Edwards on Monday morning.

Brandon's grandmother, Charlotte Wright, said today that she was shocked when, without warning, police arrived at her house to arrest Steven Edwards.

She said her daughter and son-in-law, who live with her, never abused the baby and that Steven Edwards was "never anything but loving to that child."

"I've been around them since they brought him home," said Wright. "He (Steven Edwards) was nuts about him."

Wright declined to discuss details about Brandon's injuries. However, she said, she did not understand why authorities believed Steven Edwards had abused the child.

"He was always helping Shannon with him -- changing him, getting bottles for him," she said, adding that the couple had made careful preparations for the baby while Shannon Edwards was pregnant.

Dist. Atty. Jerry Wells refused to comment on how Brandon died, other than to say it was "trauma from child abuse." Wells said this morning that an autopsy conducted by Dr. Kris Perry, a forensic pathologist from Atlanta, was under way.

Since Edwards' arrival in the Douglas County Jail, officers have noticed actions that indicate he could be a threat to injure himself, Sheriff Loren Anderson said. He would not elaborate.

"We're watching him," Anderson said.

Wells said investigators had no reason to suspect anyone else was criminally involved in the infant's death. Edwards' wife, Shannon Edwards, also was home at the time of the abuse, police said.

A conviction for first-degree felony murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison. A child abuse conviction is punishable by up to 5 2/3 years in prison, Wells said.

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