Archive for Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Mother testifies in murder trial

Defense tries to shift blame from father in 5-month-old’s death

August 2, 2006


Prosecutors say he killed her baby through repeated child abuse while she was at work.

But on Tuesday, Brandi Mae Hendrickson stuck up for her one-time boyfriend, Jay D. Decker, 27, saying she believed his explanations for the series of bruises and injuries the couple's 5-month-old baby suffered last fall in the days leading to her death.

"He's a fairly decent baby sitter," Hendrickson testified.

Asked whether she still loved Decker, Hendrickson said, "I wish not to answer that."

The testimony came on the first day of Decker's first-degree murder trial in Douglas County District Court. He's charged with killing his and Hendrickson's daughter, Risha J. Lafferty, on Oct. 14 at Edgewood Homes, 1600 Haskell Ave.

Prosecutors say Risha had been shaken and had her skull fractured shortly before her death, and that her head and torso were covered with bruises, some of which were days old. Decker surfaced immediately as the suspect after he called 911 and officers found the baby unresponsive inside the home.

But during opening statements of the trial, defense attorney Mark Manna told jurors the evidence wouldn't be able to answer what exact injury caused Risha's death, when the injury was inflicted or who caused it. He said Hendrickson had more control over the baby's routine and more opportunities in the hours leading to Risha's death to cause her injuries.

Jay D. Decker, defendant in the murder trial of his 5-month-old daughter, sits in a Douglas County courtroom. His trial began Tuesday with opening statements and testimony from Brandi Mae Hendrickson, the baby&squot;s mother. Hendrickson called Decker "a fairly decent baby sitter."

Jay D. Decker, defendant in the murder trial of his 5-month-old daughter, sits in a Douglas County courtroom. His trial began Tuesday with opening statements and testimony from Brandi Mae Hendrickson, the baby's mother. Hendrickson called Decker "a fairly decent baby sitter."

"The evidence will show that more control means more opportunities to cause a fatal injury to Risha," Manna said.

Repeat injuries

Decker and Hendrickson moved to Edgewood in August 2005 with Risha and their 2-year-old daughter, who is now in foster care. Decker got a job at Sonic, but it didn't last long.

With him out of work, Hendrickson found a temporary job in mid-September at Amarr Garage Door Group, working 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and left Decker to care for the girls. Shortly thereafter, Risha started to get hurt regularly.

Hendrickson said that when she came home from work, Decker often had stories about injuries the baby had suffered during the day. Once, for example, he said the couple's older daughter had tried to pull the baby through the crib slats. Another time, she said, Decker told her he'd left Risha in the bathtub alone for a moment and had come back to find her turning blue, so he picked her up by the leg and hit her on the cheeks to revive her.

On Oct. 5, she came home and Decker said they needed to go to the hospital. He told her that he had tripped while holding Risha and had fallen into the drywall in a bedroom, leaving a round dent that Assistant Dist. Atty. Amy McGowan said was about the size of a baby's head.

Neglect vs. abuse

Hendrickson said she saw bruises on Risha's head. Only then, Hendrickson testified, did she suspect Decker might not be telling her the truth about the repeat injuries. She said she doubted him for "about 15 seconds," but that the doubt went away.

As they were getting ready to go to the hospital, she testified, Decker took the baby out of the car seat. She said he told her that if they went to the hospital, it would be considered child abuse, but if they didn't it would be considered child neglect.

They didn't go. Asked if Decker prevented her from going to the hospital, she said, "No." Asked why she never took Risha for help, Hendrickson said she didn't have a good answer.

"I was minding my own business that day," she said.

On Oct. 14, Decker called police to Edgewood around 8:20 a.m., not quite an hour after Hendrickson clocked in to work. He initially told officers that he had been sleeping next to Risha on a mattress - about 6 inches off the ground - and that when he picked her up and rolled over, she fell off the mattress, cried for about 20 minutes and stopped breathing.

He later said that she wasn't injured in the fall, that he had given her a bath to calm her after her fall and that she had begun wheezing, officer Scott Chamberlain testified. He said Decker also told him Risha had fallen off the couch two to three days earlier and that he had grabbed her by the throat to catch her.

Defense's side

The opening statement from Decker's attorneys was the first time they had laid out their side of the case. Manna questioned the credibility of Hendrickson, who was charged with felony child endangerment but reached a deal to plead to a misdemeanor in exchange for testimony against Decker.

He suggested she was tired and under stress from caring not only for two children but also for Decker.

In the hours leading to Risha's death, he said, Decker was alone with the baby for a little more than an hour. By contrast, Hendrickson was alone with the baby for five hours, he said.

Also, Hendrickson initially told police the baby had been healthy before she left for work Oct. 14. But she told a supervisor at work that Risha had a fever and had been vomiting, Manna said.

At a preliminary hearing, Hendrickson testified that before she left for work, Risha was moaning and her eyes were fluttering open and closed - a sign, the defense will argue, that she had suffered a "neurological trauma" earlier that morning or the night before.

Hendrickson at times Tuesday gave conflicting or cloudy testimony. For example, while looking at a picture of Risha's body that showed three bruises on the baby's head, she said she didn't know where the bruises came from. Later, on cross-examination, she said the bruises came from Risha bumping her head on the tile floor of their apartment while she was trying to crawl.

"Have you ever hit, struck or shook Risha?" McGowan asked.

"No," Hendrickson said.

The trial continues today and is expected to last all week.


Kelly Powell 11 years, 3 months ago

I'm all for a standardized common sense test for all people wanting to breed.....If two people have marginal scores they must have the egg fertilised with the semen of a nobel prize winner or have a leftover zygote of a fertility clinic of an oustanding couple inserted.

boomersooner4ever 11 years, 3 months ago

how are you going to pull a five month old out of the tub by her her FEET?????? sick, sick people. I look at my daughters and I AM SOOOOO HAPPY that they are mine, i hope they BOTH go straight to hell

missmagoo 11 years, 3 months ago

she's just as guilty as he is. nice plea-bargaining.

mztrendy 11 years, 3 months ago

I would hate to hear what she classifies as a bad babysitter then. That guy looks like a worm. They are both guilty and should both be punished. And hopefully something good will happen to their other child and she won't ever remember the creeps that were supposed to be her parents.

OfficeGirl 11 years, 3 months ago

Why was the baby's last name different from both parents'?

Linda Endicott 11 years, 3 months ago

Sounds to me, Lizzy, like you are just kidding yourself. Nice to be loyal to people and all, but not to the point of ignoring abuse and a child's death.

A baby is dead. I don't care which one of them actually did it. Whichever one did it, the other one should have reported it. They're both guilty as hell, because neither of them did anything to stop it.

FormerCentralKansan 11 years, 3 months ago

Another example of why some people should not be allowed to have children. This "mother" is a complete disgrace. Why they let her plead to a lesser charge is beyond me.

lizzyp13 11 years, 3 months ago

Don't any of you get it...Brandi is setting him up!!

trinity 11 years, 3 months ago

dear God in heaven. this woman is a total kook, and to think that she's been allowed to plead to a misdemeanor-AGGGGGGGHHHH. this has sickened me for the day. i hope&pray justice is dished up in heapin' helpins to these two morons.

lizzyp13 11 years, 3 months ago

Reverse the roles, mother/wife as the controller of the father/husband. Twisted, I know. It's been going on for a while because so many people are lying! Just look at the story above, it even says so.

Jamesaust 11 years, 3 months ago

Its rather amazing that "society" is obsessed about some persons' private affairs but can't be bothered to intervene in protecting a life in the care of these two losers.

Wow. What Kansas values!

lizzyp13 11 years, 3 months ago

Explain what you're saying. The only reason I'm on her is to shed light to the other side of every story. Everyone judges w/o knowing the story, and I'm not one to just sit there while someone gets called "trash" and a "baby-killer".

lizzyp13 11 years, 3 months ago

He was only with her for a couple of months. The mother was there more then he was, and he was ready to jump back into his normal life and be the father he always wanted to be then life took a nasty turn.

HappyFace 11 years, 3 months ago

I know of another murder trial (in Lawrence) where the person changed his story several times.....and he is sitting in prison!! Wassup with letting this woman plead to a misdemeanor????

tweetybird2 11 years, 3 months ago

Sounds like she is as guilty as he is if not more.

joshs_mom 11 years, 3 months ago

I agree with Confrontation. Some people just should not be parents. And did anyone else notice that Decker was quoted as saying "If we go to the hospital it would be child abuse, but if we don't go it's child neglect." It sounds like this isn't the first time he's been involved with the legal system in regards to child abuse. Drop both of them in a dark pit for the next 50 or so years. Better yet, Decker seems like a good candidate for lethal injection.

lizzyp13 11 years, 3 months ago

I don't know what else to say, I was there today and there is so much more behind those closed doors. I guess I'll just stick to what I've always said, "Those who've never sinned may throw the first stone."

lizzyp13 11 years, 3 months ago

If only you knew how controlling and manipulative Brandi is...

lizzyp13 11 years, 3 months ago

NO way...she is w/ family that is safe. Brandi will never get her again. But anyway, the trial will be over in a few days and the truth should definitely be out. Until then keep an open mind and look at both sides of the story.

reginafliangie 11 years, 3 months ago

What is up with "its none of my business"? Your child is none of your business???? Something is seriously wrong with this woman and I hope to god she doesn't get the other child back.

mztrendy 11 years, 3 months ago

i hope that if and when they ever get to be free, something really terrible happens to them. With pain and suffering.

spammer89 11 years, 3 months ago

WTH is wrong with the world today, this dumb BIT** should be drawn and quartered in my personal opinion or at the very least (after a dumb ass plea agreement) sterilized people like this should not be allowed to breed.

"Asked whether she still loved Decker, Hendrickson said, "I wish not to answer that."

What kind of dumb BIT** would still love a sick bastard after this unless she was involved in the abuse herself.

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 3 months ago

god what do you say this is making my head want to blow up i really can not put in to words everything that is in there. I just want to scream and cry.

lizzyp13 11 years, 3 months ago

Definitely not kidding myself. The truth will come out and I'll be there to witness it.

Ceallach 11 years, 3 months ago

I too can't get past the "minding my own business" thing. My grown children have come to understand that as long as I live they will be my business. I may no longer tell them what to do, but I reserve the birthright of having an opinion. Sounds like she has been trained by the weasel to "mind her own business." Nothing was mentioned about whether or not the 2 year old showed signs of abuse -- probably couldn't release it so as not to prejudice the jury against the waste-of-skin father.

Yet the DA apparently made a deal with this cretin, she may be dumb but the DA's office was even dumber!!! I would assume the testimony she was supposed to give was different from that reported in this article.

planetwax 11 years, 3 months ago

We adopted our child. If we were to have a biological child, we would not have had (1) to get police background checks and child abuse clearances, (2) to have a social worker meet with us four times and once in our home to "evaluate" our ability to be parents, (3) to get medical exams to prove we are emotionally and physically stable, (4) to obtain birth certificates for both parents as well as our marriage license, (5) to ask our employers to write letters to verify our employment, and (6) to get three letters of reference from friends. All of these documents had to be notarized, certified, and then authenticated. Sometimes, I think it's too bad all parents don't have to be scrutinized in this way. It definately elevates caring for a child from "babysitting" to parenting.

mztrendy 11 years, 3 months ago

Planetwax, you have made a very good point. And what really bothers me is all of the great people in the world who aren't able to have children, and then the douchebags like these people that choose to have them and not take care of them.

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 3 months ago

still stuck on aaaaahhhhhhhh, my mind just does not get this.

OfficeGirl 11 years, 3 months ago

All the defense has to do is plant a seed of doubt that someone else could have done it and the jury will not be able to find him guilty 'beyond a reasonable doubt'. They make it look like maybe the mom did it and the jury finds him not guilty or guilty of a lesser related charge. Then they try the mom and she blames the dad and the jury finds her not guilty or guilty of a lesser related charge. Soon they are out of prison, back together and reproducing yet another child to be abused and miserable until they maybe kill it too. What a wonderful world we live in.

Confrontation 11 years, 3 months ago

I'm a big fan of child abusers/molesters being forced to undergo surgeries that keep them from ever having children. Of course, everyone would freak out and the ACLU would claim "cruel and unusual punishment." Apparently, these people overlook the child's cruel punishment.

horselover 11 years, 3 months ago

This article made me sick when I read it. They should both be on trial. How can a mother say she was minding her own business. This was her baby, and she is getting off scott free. And now after her testimony he probably will also. What a travisty.

westernksgirl 11 years, 3 months ago

I was minding my own business that day," she said

ARE YOU KIDDING ME (and yes, that is meant as a shout!) How in the world is your child not your business?! I work full time (am now at lunch), I have three kids, so, I know stress and tired and taking care of everything .. but, there is NEVER a time when my kids are not my top priority. I have a 5 mos old who's trying to crawl, she has a rug burn on her head, but, no bruises anywhere else and she gets wrestled around a lot with the other two. I can not believe this woman. I hope that the prosecution left open the door of revoking the plea agreement if this guy was found not guilty, as, with most "shaken baby" or "child abuse" cases, there's always somewhat a "doubt" as to who really did cause the harm .. especially when BOTH parents have access, opportunity, etc. And in this case, where neither parent is blameless (noticing bruises for days? He was a great "babysitter?" What kind of parent is called a "babysitter"?) Therefore, it is usually an eyewitness who puts the real abuser in jail. Here, it seems to be the lesser of two evils. And, I'm not sure right now, that there is a "lesser" evil. And, if he walks due to her inconsistent testimony, then, her plea should be revoked. However, as I wasn't privvy to those negotiations, I don't know what the terms are. This is sad. So tragic.

lizzyp13 11 years, 3 months ago

You're missing the point of the mother not letting him do anything. She is lying on the stand. His testimony has never changes but the story above tells you her's is bouncing all over the place. The only thing the father should get is child neglect b/c he didn't stand up for himself against her and protect himself and the children. Only a few more months...

Linda Endicott 11 years, 3 months ago

Isn't he an adult? Isn't he a man? Why does he have to "let" anyone tell him what he can and can't do?

How long would it have taken him to leave the place and call the cops? And exactly how would she have stopped him?

lizzyp13 11 years, 3 months ago

You don't know anything about this case! Keep writing I guess but I'm done trying to knock some sense in you bumbling idiots. Again, those who've never sinned may throw the first stone. None of you have any idea what you're talking about and one of these days life will slap you hard in the face just like it did to this family. God bless each of you!

r_man07 11 years, 2 months ago

Hi, Im Brandi's cousin. I think they are both gulity, Jay may have killed Risha, but Brandi didnt report it. And its not like Jay hasnt been abusive before like when Brandi ran off with him and Foxy, Jay had abused Brandi and Foxy then he took Brandi's truck and left them in South Carolina. Im just sad that we lost Risha, my and I family love her and Foxy deeply. Although I hope that the courts do their job and put him away, I know that in the end he will have to face what he has done. And God will give them justice. I dont know how anyone could live with themselves after killing their baby. And it REALLY hurts to know that I can never hold Risha again or watch her grow up. IT REALLY HURTS. And to be honest I would love to see Jay Fry.

lizzyp13 7 years, 4 months ago

You can't just post the same thing on multiple articles! Someone commented back to you on the same post you left on another article and said they figured out that little story was all a lie. Apparently, Brandi's family excells at that characteristic.

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