Thursday, February 5, 2015

Dad on trial for murder of 5-week-old daughter (Carlisle, Pennsylvania)

Dad is identified as JUSTIN L. THOMPSON.

'I didn't think I shook her that hard,' father tells police in Cumberland County infant-homicide case

Justin L. Thompson, 36, of South Middleton Township, is on trial this week in Cumberland County Court, facing charges that include criminal homicide in the 2011 death of his infant daughter.

By Steve Marroni on February 04, 2015 at 1:57 PM, updated February 04, 2015 at 3:39 PM

CARLISLE - "I didn't mean to hurt her," Justin Thompson said, sobbing. "I love my daughter."

After a nearly two-hour police interview, which prosecutors played Wednesday for a Cumberland County jury, the South Middleton Township man told troopers he shook his infant daughter, "Maybe three to five seconds, if that."

Much of Wednesday morning's testimony in the trial of Thompson, 36, who is accused of killing his infant daughter by shaking her, came from this second recorded interview he had with the state police.

The interview took place several weeks after the Sept. 1, 2011 death of 5-week-old Ahzyre Thompson when medical reports came back showing she died from blunt-force trauma to the head. She had injuries consistent with being shaken, such as bruising to the back of her neck, as well as hemorrhaging from her eyes and around her brain and spinal cord.

Cpl. Bryan Henneman of the Pennsylvania State Police at Carlisle told the jury that this second interview became more of an interrogation when police suspected Thompson was responsible for his daughter's death.

"I will try to get the suspect to become emotional," Henneman said, explaining his technique. "Through training and experience, I know when they get emotional, they are more apt to confess."

And in the recording, the shift from interview to interrogation began with troopers telling Thompson medical evidence shows she died from being shaken.

"Justin, when was the baby shaken?" Henneman asked, getting louder with Thompson in the recording. "It's not a question of whether or not it happened. I'm here to find out if you're a murderer - a child killer - or if you had a moment where you snapped."

As part of this interrogation technique, Henneman said he often tries to give defendants an "out" by casting some blame on the victim. Though Henneman told the jury he does not blame the baby at all in reality, he asked Thompson in the recording if this was a premeditated killing, or if he was stressed and emotional because the baby was fussy.

"When did you shake her?" he said, repeatedly asking if he regrets what happened. "I know you shook her."

Thompson stuck to his story for some time, saying he woke up, changed the baby's diaper and fed her around 3 a.m. that morning, and when he woke up again at 7, she wasn't breathing. The troopers were not buying it.

"We don't think you're a monster," Henneman said in the recording. "Was it an accident? Were you trying to get the baby to stop crying or did you murder the baby? Which one was it?"

"I would never hurt my daughter," Thompson said.

"On purpose," police immediately chimed in. "And not talking makes it sound like you did it on purpose."

After about an hour and a half of questioning, Thompson could be heard crying in the recording. He slowly broke down, at first saying, "If I did shake her, it was just a couple of seconds," before making an admission to police.

"I didn't think I shook her that hard," Thompson said, sobbing. "I can't believe this is my fault."

Thompson is facing charges of criminal homicide, aggravated assault, endangering the welfare of children and recklessly endangering another person. Under the criminal homicide charge, the prosecution is pursuing a third-degree murder conviction.

Trial will continue Wednesday afternoon.