A judge found a Hamilton man guilty in the death of a four month old child. The verdict came despite testimony by the dead infant's mother, who said on the stand that she believed a three-year old child was responsible for the baby's death.
30 year old Steven Haley was charged with murder and child endangering for the death of four-month old James Smith. The infant died two days after he was found unresponsive in a house on Springvale Drive in Hamilton on February 27th.
Haley was sentenced by the same judge who rendered his verdict. He'll spend 15 years to life in prison for the child's death.
During testimony on Monday in Haley's trial, our partners at the Hamilton Journal report that Smith's mother testified a 3-year-old could have been responsible for her son’s death. The woman, a hospice medical assistant, testified she was working a double shift on February 26 and Haley was watching her 4-month-old James Smith and her 9-year-old son. She testified she was on the phone with Haley frequently that day because her younger son was colicky. She said she had complete confidence in Haley as a caregiver.
After a phone call at around 2:30 a.m., she rushed home when Haley told her James was “gasping.” She said the baby often gasped after a fit of crying, but something told her this was more serious. When she got home, she said her instincts were correct. “I heard him gasping from the hallway, but it was a different kind of gasping,” she said, demonstrating the sounds her son was making. She said the infant was gray and his lips had turned blue. She attempted CPR and had Haley dial 911.
The baby was taken to Fort Hamilton Hospital, then air lifted to Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati, where he later died.
During cross examination, defense attorney Damon Halverson suggested her friend’s son and other children may have been in the room with the baby. The woman testified her friend’s son has violent tendencies. “I have seen him find a kitchen knife and chase children through the house and he got very close to stabbing my oldest son,” she said, her voice quavering. “There were also occasions I had seen outbursts of anger.”
The woman’s 9-year-old testified briefly Monday afternoon that his infant brother’s crying awoke him in the middle of the night. When he went to investigate, he testified he saw Haley trying to calm the baby by hoisting him in the air. When asked how high out of Haley’s hands his baby brother went, the boy curled his small hand in a “C” shape indicating only a small distance. He said he had seen his mother use a similar technique to quiet his brother.
During opening statements, Assistant Prosecutor Jennifer McElfresh told Judge Craig Hedric that there was bruising on the front, back and sides of the infant’s head and blood seeped through multiple layers of his brain and in his eyes and he had a fractured rib.
Mark Henson, the lead detective on the case for the Hamilton Police, said the suggestion that a 3-year-old, 40-pound playmate could have caused Smith’s death was out of the question. “He had just turned 3 years old, his size, and from the information I have received from the hospital about the amount of force that may be given to injuries such as this, I didn’t see any where, any way, any how that (name omitted) could cause the injuries to this baby,” Henson said.