Photos at issue in child’s death

Final trial preparations were made Friday in the case of a Lawrence man charged with murdering his infant daughter through repeated child abuse.

Defense attorneys and prosecutors were in court arguing about how many photos of infant Risha Lafferty’s body should be allowed at the upcoming murder trial of her father, Jay D. Decker.

His attorneys opposed the state’s request to enter five photos of the baby’s bruised body into evidence, arguing it was repetitive and likely to prejudice the jury. But Judge Paula Martin agreed with prosecutors, who argued the photos were permissible because they each showed different injuries and were taken from different angles.

“It’s always disturbing to see a photo of a deceased child, but I don’t think that five is an unacceptable or prejudicial number,” Martin said.

Decker, 27, is scheduled to stand trial starting July 31.

Risha’s mother, Brandi Mae Hendrickson, and Decker moved into Edgewood Homes, 1600 Haskell Ave., nearly a year ago after coming to Lawrence from Miami County.

When Hendrickson got a job, Decker stayed home and cared for Risha and the couple’s 2-year-old daughter. Hendrickson has testified Risha suffered repeated injuries while under Decker’s care in roughly the month leading up to her Oct. 14 death.

When Decker called emergency crews to the home that day, he told police Risha had fallen off the bed and suddenly stopped breathing.

But at a preliminary hearing in February, Coroner Erik Mitchell testified that Risha died of “deliberate injuries of force to the head.” He said she had a fractured skull, bruises under her scalp, signs of being shaken and 35 bruises or other external injuries.

Hendrickson has been charged with felony child endangerment for failing to report the girl’s earlier injuries, but she’s agreed to testify against Decker in exchange for a misdemeanor plea.