Thursday, April 4, 2013

Dad on trial for killing 20-month-old daughter (Newark, New Jersey)

Yet another clueless, violent father who killed an infant...this time because she wouldn't eat on Daddy's command. The dad is identified as TRAVIS HARTSFIELD JR.

Trial begins for Newark father accused of killing 20-month-old baby 

By Julia Terruso/The Star-Ledger April 04, 2013 at 4:25 PM, updated April 04, 2013 at 4:35 PM 

NEWARK — The last time Darshelle Joseph heard her baby daughter's voice was around 11 p.m. March 14, 2011, when she called to tell her "night, night," and heard the familiar murmurings of a 20-month-old trying to respond.

Less than an hour later, Joseph would be awoken by a panicked call from Asiyah's father, Travis Hartsfield Jr. who was watching her that night. "He said, 'Asiyah's not breathing,' Joseph recalled on the stand yesterday.

"He said he rolled over to change her diaper and she was ice cold and not breathing. I said, 'why are you calling me? Call 9-1-1.'"

From that chilling call came an even grimmer reality. Asiyah was dead and the cause of her death was two punches to the chest delivered by her father, Hartsfield, who admitted to police he hit the girl twice out of frustration when she wouldn't eat, according to court testimony.

Hartsfield's murder trial began in Superior Court in Newark today with opening statements from both attorneys and testimony from Joseph who recalled the hours leading up to and following her daughter's death.

Hartsfield, 25, admits he caused his daughter's death but it'll be up to the jury to determine his state of mind and whether the appropriate conviction is murder, or the lesser charge of aggravated manslaughter.

"There isn't anyone who is more horrified by what happened than Mr. Hartsfield. This was his child. He loved her," said Hartsfield's attorney Susan Freedman. She called what happened a moment of "frustration not intention."

Assistant Prosecutor Michele Miller will aim to show Hartsfield intended to kill his daughter.

"Those hard purposeful punches were an intentional act of an adult male upon a small child," Miller said.

Hartsfield, the baby's biological father and Joseph's boyfriend at the time, frequently watched the baby while Joseph worked. Hartsfield had been having trouble getting the baby to eat, Freedman said in her opening statement, prompting him to hit her twice and then lay down with her, not knowing that his blows had caused internal damage. It wasn't until he went to check her diaper about an hour later, Freedman said, that Hartsfield realized she wasn't breathing.

Joseph remained composed and even bright-eyed for most of her testimony until Miller showed her a smiling photo of Asiyah and asked her to describe saying goodbye to her daughter at the hospital after doctors had pronounced her.

"I went in this glass room with curtains and she was lying there on the bed and I saw the bruises on her chest and the cut on her head," Joseph said in a soft voice through tears. "After that I couldn't look at her anymore and I walked out." 

Joseph testified she knew her daughter did not have the knuckle-sized bruises that morning because she had given the baby a bath. 

Outside the courtroom Joseph said she was eager to get home to her 9-month old daughter Aleeyah. "It was really hard," she said of testifying, "You're sitting up there and you're forced to re-live it all, everything you tried to forget."

In the coming days the jury, made up of 10 men and four women, will hear testimony from detectives, emergency medical technicians, friends and relatives as well as the taped interview between Hartsfield and police in which Hartsfield admits to hitting the child.