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LJWorld.com weblogs The Lawrence Crime Blotter

Mother's story questioned in infant-death trial

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The father is on trial, but defense attorneys say the mother is the one who deserves more scrutiny in the killing of a 5-month old baby last fall at Edgewood Homes in east Lawrence.Attorneys for 27-year-old Jay D. Decker laid out their side of the case for the first time this morning during opening statements of Decker's first-degree murder trial in Douglas County District Court. Decker is charged with killing Risha Lafferty, who was found dead the morning of Oct. 14 with signs of repeated abuse: bruises on her head and chest, a skull fracture, and injuries in her eyes consistent with being shaken.But defense attorney Mark Manna told jurors the evidence won't be able to answer what exact injury caused Risha's death, when the injury was inflicted, or who caused it. He said the girl's mother, Brandi Mae Hendrickson, had more motive and opportunities in the hours leading up to Risha's death to cause her injuries."The evidence will show that more control means more opportunities to cause a fatal injury to Risha," Manna said.Decker called police to Edgewoood around 8:20 a.m., not quite an hour after Hendrickson clocked in to her temporary job at Amarr Garage Door. He initially told officers that he had been lying next to Risha on a mattress- about 6 inches off the ground- and that when he rolled over, she fell off the mattress, cried for about 20 minutes, and stopped breathing. He later added that he had given her a bath "to calm her down" after her fall and that she had begun wheezing. He also told officers that she had fallen off the couch two to three days earlier and that he had grabbed her by the throat to catch her.In her opening statement, Assistant Dist. Atty. Amy McGowan cited a series of at least five incidents in the weeks leading up to the death in which Risha suffered injuries while under Decker's care, all while Hendrickson was at work.She said medical evidence will show that, even though some of Risha's injuries were days old, she suffered a skull fracture and was shaken shortly before her death. But 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.Among the points Manna cited:¢ Hendrickson never told police during 14 hours of interrogation that she awoke during the previous night about 2 a.m., heard Risha cry out, and saw Decker coming from the baby's room. The first time she told that story, Manna said, was when she took the witness stand earlier this year at a preliminary hearing.¢ In the hours leading up to Risha's death, Decker was alone with the baby for a little more than an hour. By contrast, Hendrickson was alone with the baby for five hours.¢ Even though Hendrickson initially told police that the baby had been healthy before she left for work that morning, she told a supervisor at work that Risha had a fever and had been vomiting. At 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. The trial is expected to last one week."You yourselves get to judge, as the finder of fact, who's telling the truth to you," McGowan told jurors. -Contributed by [Eric Weslander.][1] [1]: http://www2.ljworld.com/staff/eric_weslander

Comments

spammer89 8 years, 4 months ago

They should fry both of them in my opinion, or at least give them life in prison and they should also sterlize them both. people like that should not be blessed with a gift of a child when there are loving people out there who cannot have children and would give a arm to have a one.

Confrontation 8 years, 4 months ago

There's no reason, other than pure neglect, as to why the mother didn't take the child to the hospital after any of the beatings. I bet the child was covered under the state's free insurance and could have been helped at no expense to the mother. It disgusts me to know the lengths some women will go to so they can keep a man!

spammer89 8 years, 4 months ago

he is not a MAN by any means, he is a sick S.O.B.

Steve Jacob 8 years, 4 months ago

His lawyer is doing what he has to do, blame the mother. It has to be nearly impossible to get a 1st degree murder out of this.

mztrendy 8 years, 4 months ago

How can someone beat an innocent 5 month old baby?

BJ 8 years, 4 months ago

There are times when you don't offer a plea bargain, ands this is one of them. Not a good move by the DA; it sounds like there would have been evidence enough without the mother's testimony against her husband. I don't know if the DA can still go after her since they offered her this plea bargain, but if there is ANY way, they should!

lizzyp13 8 years, 4 months ago

None of you know eveything. Trust me the mother is, well I can't even explain but she's bad. Reverse the roles and put the mother/wife has the controller of the father/husband. Just think about that one...

acg 8 years, 4 months ago

This makes me so angry I think I could seriously hurt these two pieces of trash. I can't get my head around beating an infant.

jennifermarti 8 years, 4 months ago

They both killed that poor little girl and should BOTH be punished for it. I am a mother and you know when there is something wrong with your child and this pathetic excuse for a mother ignored it and left her baby with this monster to be beaten and eventually die!

mztrendy 8 years, 4 months ago

those people disqust me. I hope they are both punished.

OfficeGirl 8 years, 4 months ago

Jailed until neither of them are able to reproduce again and all rights to the older child are severed. Jailed in general population where they don't like child molesters/abusers/murderers.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 8 years, 4 months ago

"found dead the morning of Oct. 14 with signs of repeated abuse"

THAT fact discredits anyone close to the child. It's reasonable that the mother either did it, or knew about it but didn't report it. Those "signs" should have been evident to her. The prosecution is not going to have difficulty proving the child was murdered, but I'd be surprised if they actually convict him.

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