Archive for Saturday, February 18, 2006

Coroner: 5-month-old suffered repeated abuse

Mother takes stand against father

February 18, 2006


Again and again, 5-month-old Risha Lafferty turned up with bruises on her body. Her father, Jay D. Decker, 26, who watched Risha during the day, told his girlfriend they were caused by accidents.

One day, she fell off the couch. Another day, he tripped while carrying her and dented the wall.

He never sought medical treatment for any of her injuries until Oct. 14, 2005, when, he said, she suddenly stopped breathing after falling off the bed.

But a coroner testified Friday that the injuries he found on the baby that day were not accidental. He found Risha had a fractured skull, bruises under her scalp and signs of being shaken.

"This child died as a consequence of deliberate injuries of force to the head," coroner Erik Mitchell testified Friday in Douglas County District Court.

The testimony came during a daylong preliminary hearing for Decker, who was charged with first-degree murder in Risha's death. Prosecutors allege that Decker had abused the girl inside his apartment in Edgewood Homes, 1600 Haskell Ave., while her mother, 24-year-old Brandi Mae Hendrickson, was at work.

Mother testifies

Friday's hearing was the first time detailed information about the case had been made public.

At the end of the hearing, Judge Paula Martin found there was probable cause to try Decker for first-degree murder. She scheduled his trial for May 22.

In all, the coroner identified 35 bruises or other external injuries on Risha, though he testified that some were several days old.

Jay D. Decker, the man charged with killing a baby last fall, was in Douglas County District Court for preliminary hearings in the case Friday.

Jay D. Decker, the man charged with killing a baby last fall, was in Douglas County District Court for preliminary hearings in the case Friday.

Hendrickson, who saw the girl's injuries in the days before her death but didn't report them, has been charged with felony child endangerment. She took the witness stand Friday and testified against Decker as part of a deal she arranged with prosecutors to reduce her own charge to a misdemeanor.

Hendrickson said she and Decker had moved into Edgewood on Aug. 12 after moving to Lawrence from Miami County. He worked at the nearby Sonic restaurant for a few weeks, but eventually he quit and she found work at Amarr Garage Doors through a temp agency.

That left Decker to care for Risha and the couple's 2-year-old daughter. Hendrickson testified that shortly after she began working, Risha started getting injured.

Series of injuries

¢About Sept. 16, she said Risha had a red injury under her neck. She said Decker had told her that the couple's older daughter had been trying to pull Risha through the slats of her crib.

Jay D. Decker

Jay D. Decker

¢ About Sept. 27, she said Risha had a bruise on her left thigh. She said Decker had told her Risha had fallen when the older daughter tipped over Risha's highchair.

¢ About Sept. 29, she said Decker had told her he'd left Risha unattended in the bathtub and had come back to see her under water and turning blue. He told her he had hit her on her cheeks to revive her.

¢ About Oct. 5, she came home and found a dent in the bedroom wall. Decker told her and later told police that he'd fallen while picking Risha up and that they both had gone into the wall.

¢ Decker also told police that he had had grabbed Risha by the throat several days before her death to stop her from falling off the couch.

"This is a child who suffered a number of injuries, all in the time that she was being cared for by the defendant," said Assistant Dist. Atty. Amy McGowan.

When asked why she didn't take Risha to a hospital, Hendrickson said she didn't know.

Hendrickson testified that the night before her daughter died, she woke up about 2 a.m., heard a "smack," heard Risha crying and then saw Decker running out of the baby's bedroom.

She testified that Decker eventually brought the baby into their bedroom and they all fell asleep. When she woke up to go to work the next morning, Hendrickson said, she noticed Risha seemed sick and tired.

Later that morning, police came to find her at work and told her that her daughter was dead.

Defendant's version

Decker told police that after Hendrickson had left for work Oct. 14, Risha woke up crying next to him. The couple slept on a mattress on the floor, and Risha had been sleeping on a body pillow next to it.

He rolled over and picked her up, he said, but as he rolled back over he dropped her. She kept falling off the mattress and struck her head on the ground, he said. Police estimated the distance she would have fallen at 8 to 16 inches.

Decker told detectives that she began screaming and he had given her a bath to try to calm her down. Shortly after he got her out of the bathtub, he said, she had stopped breathing.

He tried CPR and then called 911, he said.

Defense attorney Mark Manna attacked Hendrickson's credibility, questioning her about her plea agreement and about details of the hours leading up to the death. For example, after she testified that she had gone to bed about 10 p.m. the night before, Manna pointed out that police reports indicated she had said she'd gone to bed at 11 p.m.


JimmyJoeBob 12 years ago

I agree she is a pathetic excuse for a mother and deserves to be punished for her crimes. But let's not try and say she is worse than the father. When you say that you are being irresponsible. You in essence are excusing the father for murdering his child. No double standards here please

Ceallach 12 years ago

Legally the mother should be considered equally guilty and should not have been charged with a lesser crime. If the abuse reports are valid, and it appears they are, she sacrificed her child to appease this man. She did not care enough about the child to say he could not watch her and he did not care enough about the child to say he shouldn't watch her.

JJB, it may be a double standard, but hey, our society is full of double standards! Just check the child support violators. There are a lot more deadbeat dads than deadbeat moms. A mother's devotion to protecting her child should have over ridden her desire to stay with this man. It did not. How many times would you come home to a bruised and injured baby less than 5 month old without getting rid of the sitter. IMHO, as a mother she was more culpable.

Now we will have to read endless reports about his mental health, being unemployed, feeling powerless, ad nauseum!!

justathought 12 years ago

What is wrong with people. Sick just sick on both the father and mothers sides.

bankboy119 12 years ago

It's not excusing the father, it's holding the mother accountable. What pathetic excuses for parents.

planetwax 12 years ago

One thing I think may be missing in this story is possible abuse of the mother from the father. This might explain why she never called the police.

angelofmine 12 years ago

I don't think there is much excuse for either person here. I am the proud mama of a little girl who turned 4 at 7:45 this morning. ; ) Her birth father was abusive, and I left the situation entirely after he physically harmed me in front of my child. I promised my child she would never grow up in an environment like that. I didn't want her to think it was ok to be treated that way herself. It wasn't easy to trust anyone I dated with her. I don't think my current fiancee was left alone with her until we were dating at least 9 months to a year, and that was just while I ran to the store next door for a gallon of milk. If I had any inclination whatsoever that someone was harming my child, I would call the police and/or proceed to kick somebody's @$$. The mama bear comes out! I'm sorry, but I can't bring myself to buy any excuse the mother might have for not addressing her child's injuries. If my daughter has a bruise on her knee, or anywhere else, I want to know where it came from and how.

mom_of_three 12 years ago

Oh, come on, people. The first two reasons for injuries are entirely plausible, and the mother believed it. ( However, the bathtub would have done it for me, if not the wall story.) We have all heard stories of older siblings doing such things because they wanted to help or was jealous.

She was charged because, at the time, she couldn't put the stories together. I feel sorry for her because she couldn't recognize the signs of child abuse.

bankboy119 12 years ago

So you're saying that because she's stupid that's an excuse?

toughangel41 12 years ago

If you have motherly instincs you know something is wrong with your baby. Yes she had to work since his lazy azz wouldn't.. but come on, if I came home more that once with his lame excuses he would be out the door in a heartbeat. How can a mother not notice these things, and yes if she was also being abused it does put the fear in you. Some people can be very controlling in those situations. Some people are too weak after being beaten down for any amount of time, but eventually you get he balls to fight for yourself. It may take some time but as soon as I saw my babies being hurt (which it never got there)in any way hell no... his azz is gone.

Linda Aikins 12 years ago

Congratulations Angel. That was incredibly brave and smart of you. I guess it's hard to get out of an abusive relationship. You can be very proud of yourself.

I feel so badly for that little baby who never was able to experience anything on this earth except pain and suffering. What about their 2-year old? Was she also mistreated?

Confrontation 12 years ago

With Judge Paula Martin on the bench, this guy will most likely see less than 10 years (or even 5).

nowandthen 12 years ago

Ignorance is no excuse. I agree, she should be right next to the father. Anyone should be able to tell if their child is being abused.

Even if the two excuses for injuries are plausible the mom should have known something was going on. And who in their right mind would leave their 5-month-old child unattended in the bathtub and think they'll be just fine?

This is just a sad and sickening story.

Alison Roberts 12 years ago

other than this story was horribly written...

the mother probably had no idea this was going on... he obviously lied to her (duh) but hes probably one of those men who can sweet talk their women into believing his "truth".

she is stupid for not taking her to the hospital... and i hope he rots in jail.. I dont know how anyone can abuse a 5 month old--let alone any child.

and yes.. she should be right up there with him if she is ignorant enough to let it go on and believe his bullsh*t.

this is horrible.

hotmama1 12 years ago

People like her do not deserve to have kids! They should have their tubes tied, burned whatever it takes. I beleive in eye for an eye so i think this guy needs to be beat in the head, drowned in the bathtub, whatever he did to the sweet innocent little baby that could not fight for herself. But since that cant happen i hope this guy rots in jail! And the mother should be right their next to him.

MadAnthony 12 years ago

Get him for practicing medicine without a license. He was doing Tiller's job, and doing it five months tardy.

momoftwo 12 years ago

Why did she need a plea bargin to take the stand? If it was my child and i thought he had anything to do with it i would want to tell all. She never said that there was any abuse going on. She sure seemed to be very suspisous acting to me. She said NO to the DA when they asked her if shed been given a plea bargin. So whos lying here? And turns out she was home alone all evening with the baby while he was working on a vehicle with a neighbor all night and then she says she heard a "slapping noise" and what the newspaper left out was that she also said she heard "her scream stop" who screamed stop? When questioned about this she said i didnt say that, no one said stop, well missy they have it in black and white for u to read that you said it. And all of these accidents could very well have happened when ur giving one child a bath and the other one takes off and u hear a loud noise you run off to see what is going on and then realize that you've just left the baby in the tub and oh my god you run back and to your horror you see that your stupidity has probably killed your baby. VERY VERY plausable especially to someone who has never been the primary care taker. So what if this was all just a horrible accident? I also heard the coroner say that this was "probably shaken baby" he also said that "he couldnt be for sure" Humm that doesnt seem real convincing. Other people brought up stated that Ms. Hendrickson was acting strange that morning at work and the Human resource manager stated in her interview with the police that the first thing out of this so called moms mouth was "what time did she die" Why didnt this make the paper? What if it was HER??? And when given the chance to tell all, the mom said that he was never abusive. She said that he would send the older child to her room or to her for punishment,so humm Does this sound like an abusive man I dont think so. This child had been in the mothers care for the majority of her life and had not been taken to any of her well baby check-ups,the child was underweight coroner said "significantly low on the growth chart". This child could have been anemic from malnutrition. This causes easy bruising. There are just to many factors going on here, for anyone to say that this man killed his baby. He has continually denied any wrong doing. The other thing that bothers me is her inability to describe without any doubt how her baby was acting that morning or whether or not she was even awake before leaving the house.Humm. The paper also failed to mention that there were several moments of akward silence from this mom where she just sat there with this look on her face like she didnt know what to say (or what lie to tell)when questioned about what she'd previously said. Or why she didnt take her baby to the doctor she said "I dont know" This women seems to be suspisous to me. I will definately be following this until the end.

lizzyp13 12 years ago

"momoftwo" and "offtotheright" all I can say is God bless you guys and everyone else who is continuing to support Jay. Wow!!! Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you! Also, bring the trial on because I can promise you, I will be there everyday that I possibly can! I pray to God thanking Him everyday for the support you give, those who don't support him, for the judicial system, Jay, Risha, and as much as it hurts I pray for Brandi too. Please continue any prayers and again thank-you.

lizzyp13 12 years ago

Okay, offtotheright...SORRY!!! Grrr...but don't ever let me see you write that he's trash! When you know everything, then and only then can you talk trash on someone! God bless you.

hollograd 12 years ago

You go Lizzy. The problem here is that the newspaper is very one-sided. The prosecution NEVER said she died because of the skull fracture. He couldn't even determine if the injuries were new or healing. Why are we so quick to judge--our we all Mesiahs and know all the details? This man was only in contact with Risha for 2 months before her death. Before that she was in her mother's care--where does that leave the DA's case about him abusing her when she was in the mother's care. He wasn't there so how was he abusing her? The coroner also said that the blood found in the brain was minute and the brain was NOT INJURED. Where is this paper getting the information their printing?

jluck 11 years, 10 months ago

I agree with all of you that he should hang for what he did. momoftwo, you seem like you are very close to this case. In fact, sounds like that you might be related to the baby killer. Because, it sounds like you are trying to blame the whole death on the mother, yes she should be held accountable for her stupidity and the things she did, but she wasn't solely to blame.

lizzyp13 11 years, 10 months ago

jluck, I love how people like you get on here and talk like you know everything too. No one does. How do you know Brandi wasn't solely to blame, can you honestly tell who's related or not, do you know everything that happened back in October? What prompted you to get on here all these months later and begin voicing your opinion? Little Risha is gone, and the truth will come out. So what if Jay's relatives and friends get on here too; what, did you expect this to be completely one-sided!?! Calling someone a baby killer without knowing everything doesn't solve anything; his trial begins in a few weeks and hopefully everything will come out. Just remember that only those who've never sinned can be the only ones to throw the first stone.

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