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Witnesses testify in Fannin case

Aug. 01, 2013 @ 12:24 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Jurors heard testimony Wednesday morning from a neighbor, a state trooper and two of the first medical professionals who treated infant Emma Beatty.

The 4-month-old's death is at the center of a trial this week in Cabell Circuit Court.

Beatty's baby sitter, Michael Fannin, is charged with child abuse causing death, an offense that carries a possible 10 to 40 years in prison.

The infant died May 2, 2011, three days after an incident occurred at Fannin's residence in Marcum Terrace. Beatty's mother met Fannin online during maternity leave, developed a friendship and sought his occasional help in caring for the child while she worked.

Fannin, 43, and defense attorney Michael J. Curtis contend the infant slipped out of her baby sitter's arms suddenly and fell four to five feet to the concrete floor. The prosecution argues it was no accident, that Fannin had shaken the baby and hit her head against some object.

John Henderson lived next door to Fannin's apartment and testified Wednesday. He recalled hearing a baby's cry April 29, 2011, lasting for 20 minutes, all while an adult yelled at the infant and used profanities telling it to shut up. He then heard a series of thumps. He compared it to the repeated clapping of someone's hand. Afterwards, the infant got a bit louder before everything quieted down.

Defense attorney Michael J. Curtis tried to discredit the neighbor's testimony during cross examination. He seized Henderson's confusion about a timeline and sought clarity in distinguishing the sound of a clap from the sight of a slap.

Henderson acknowledged only having heard the incident and testified he didn't think much about potential abuse. In answering a prosecutor's question, Henderson told jurors he initially believed the adult was clapping his hands to distract the crying infant.

"I can't see through the walls," he answered Curtis. "He was clapping his hands. I never said he smacked the baby or nothing like that."

Dr. Naaman Bell and nurse Mary Gillispie, both of St. Mary's Medical Center, testified about Beatty injuries, their initial treatment and the decision to transfer her to Cabell Huntington Hospital.

Both spoke of the infant being almost unresponsive and showing little or no reaction to pain. Under cross examination, both testified Beatty's lone bruising was to her head and their tests found no fractures to her arms, legs or ribs -- all of which Curtis contends is inconsistent with shaken baby syndrome.

Curtis also criticized the investigation of West Virginia State Police Trooper W.G. Hash. He questioned if investigators got tunnel vision based upon Hash's testimony that Beatty lacked other bruising and that he assumed the spot where Fannin dropped the infant as opposed to asking for a precise location.

Hash further testified, under questioning from assistant prosecutor Peggy Brown, that medical findings of sheering and retinal hemorrhaging beneath Beatty's skull gave him reason to believe shaken baby syndrome.

Follow Curtis Johnson at Facebook.com/curtisjohnsonHD and via Twitter @curtisjohnsonHD.

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