VERSAILLES — Stover resident Jamie Litton will face a first-degree murder charge in the death of her son after a Morgan County judge ruled the state had enough evidence against her to proceed.
During a preliminary hearing Tuesday three witnesses testified for the state in the charge that Litton, “acting knowingly ... after deliberation knowingly caused the death of (her child) by beating (the child) and then failing to seek apparent and necessary medical treatment ...”
According to a probable cause statement, at 5:12 a.m. Feb. 16, 2012, Morgan County Sheriff’s Deputies received a 911 call from Thomas “T.J.” Presley, Litton’s boyfriend, that a hit-and-run had occurred and Litton’s 3-year-old son, Blake, had been hit. Deputy Michael Chinn, who arrived first on the scene after the paramedics, testified Tuesday that Presley told him he was on his way to his brother’s house in Sedalia.
“(Presley) said Blake had to use the bathroom and so he pulled over to the side of the road (on state Route 135),” Chinn said. “Presley said both he and Blake got out to urinate and Blake finished first and ran around the back of the vehicle where he was hit by another car driving on the road.”
Chinn said there was no evidence of an accident.
“No vehicle parts, no liquids, no skid marks,” he added.
The state’s next witness, forensic pathologist Keith Norton, testified he performed an autopsy on Blake and found his cause of death to be bleeding as the result of several liver lacerations from blunt force trauma. Assistant attorney general Kevin Zoellner asked Norton to walk through his autopsy findings, which included several bruises on his abdomen, chest and back; a subdural hematoma; subgaleal hematomas and three separate lacerations on his liver.
“A hematoma is what you would call a “goose egg” when you have swelling on your head that’s filled with blood,” Norton said. “Blake had two subgaleal hematomas, one measuring 4-by-4 inches and another measuring 2-by-2 inches near the top of his head and on the back of his head.”
Blake’s subdural hematoma, which is formed when the brain moves against the skull, had more than 10cc’s of blood in it, Norton testified.
“You see subdural hematomas with shaken baby syndrome in infants,” he said. “When the child is older, that same injury can be sometimes caused by the head hitting something.”
Norton also said Blake suffered from a laceration between his lower lip and the gum line, “which is caused by the face moving side to side; it’s a common injury when a child is beaten.”
During his cross examination, Litton’s attorney, Max Mitchell, asked Norton if he could pin down “a window of time” when the liver injuries occurred and when treatment would have made a difference. Norton said he couldn’t say with any medical certainty when treatment would have prevented death because many factors contributed to the speed of bleeding.
The state’s final witness, Missouri State Highway Patrol Cpl. Stacey Mosher, testified that she interviewed Litton extensively in the hours after Blake died. She said Litton and Presley sent several text messages to each other the night of alleged beating. Around 12:35 a.m. Presley sent a text to Litton, who was at work, saying “Blake was in the kitchen, (Litton’s other daughter who was in the home at the time) had a nightmare and (Presley) was going to (expletive) him up if Blake didn’t go back to sleep.”
“Litton replied to Presley to ‘calm down’ and Presley replied ‘too late,’ ” Mosher said. “Presley then sent a message that Blake ‘got whooped.’ ”
Mosher said Presley and Litton continued to send messages throughout the night and around 3:15 a.m. Presley told Litton he, “lost it, Blake had been (expletive) three times and (Litton’s daughter) was puking. It got to him too bad and I’m done.”
Around 4:30 a.m. Presley told Litton Blake needed to go to the emergency room.
“Presley said he couldn’t take Blake because he didn’t want to go to prison,” Mosher said. “Around 4:45 a.m. Presley said he believed Blake was paralyzed and to ‘please keep it a secret so I won’t go to prison.’ ”
According to the probable cause statement, Presley brought both Blake and Litton’s daughter to her work where he stayed for a few minutes before leaving with the children. Mosher said in her interview with Litton, she said Presley wanted to make the injuries look like an accident and that faking a hit-and-run would be “the fastest way to get medical help” for Blake.
Assistant prosecuting attorney Doug Kinde asked if Litton had called 911, the police or informed people at her work what happened.
“No,” Mosher said.
Mitchell asked Mosher to clarify some statements, including that Litton never told Mosher she knew what happened.
“She never told you that she knew what happened to Blake?” Mitchell asked.
“She told me she knew something bad happened,” Mosher said.
Mitchell also asked if it was possible to tell from the log of text messages if a message had been read and that it was possible Litton didn’t know exactly what happened.
“She got the text that Blake was paralyzed,” Mosher said.
Mitchell offered no evidence on Litton’s behalf, but said he wanted the first-degree murder complaint dismissed.
“The state has not produced any evidence showing that Jamie Litton knowingly beat her child or that she failed to seek medical attention,” he said.
Zoellner told the judge Litton chose her boyfriend over her child.
“It’s as simple as that,” he said. “They made a plan that said let’s stage a hit-and-run so (Presley) doesn’t get in trouble while still getting medical help for Blake. I’m not saying Jamie Litton laid a hand on him but she didn’t seek medical attention.”
Judge Kevin Schehr ruled with the state, saying there was enough evidence of deliberation of the crime to proceed with the first-degree charge.
“We heard testimony that you tried to get care as quickly as you could by staging a hit-and-run accident,” Schehr told Litton. “But that’s not the quickest way. The quickest way would have been to walk right back (into work) and call 911. You didn’t do that. And that’s deliberation.”
Litton’s next court date is set for March 14.