Judge delays trial in infant’s death

Father's attorneys seek more information from autopsy report

Trial has been delayed until July for a Lawrence man accused of murdering his 5-month-old daughter by physical abuse.

Jay D. Decker initially was set for trial starting May 22, but his attorneys said they needed more time for their forensic pathologist to examine tissue and bone samples taken from the body of Risha J. Lafferty. Judge Paula Martin has rescheduled the trial for July 31.

Decker, 27, appeared in court Friday for a brief hearing, where his attorneys and prosecutors worked to iron out pretrial issues. At the defense’s request, Martin asked the state to furnish more detailed information from Coroner Erik Mitchell about the time window of Risha’s death.

The attorneys also reviewed a proposed questionnaire that will be sent to potential jurors asking them about their background and their knowledge of the case.

Risha’s mother, Brandi Mae Hendrickson, and Decker moved into Edgewood Homes, 1600 Haskell Ave., in mid-August 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 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.

Her plea has been scheduled for after Decker’s trial.

He remains in the Douglas County Jail.