Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Judge: Dad can be tried for 1st-degree murder in infant son's death (Lafayette, Colorado)

We've reported on dad BENJAMIN KOLLER before. He is now to be tried for 1st-degree murder in the death of his 4-month-old son. The baby died from delayed complications of blunt-force head injury.

Judge: Lafayette father Benjamin Koller can be tried for first-degree murder in infant's death
By Vanessa Miller Camera Staff Writer
Posted: 02/16/2010 09:23:40 PM MST

Enough evidence exists to prosecute a Lafayette father for first-degree murder in the death of his infant son, a judge ruled Tuesday after hearing testimony that Benjamin Koller likely played down the abuse when he admitted to suffocating, shaking, biting and dropping his child.

"Only a severe, massive force could have caused those injuries," Ryan Brackley, first assistant to the district attorney, said at a preliminary hearing for Koller. "Nothing the defendant said was consistent to the injuries of the child."

Koller, 26, faces charges of first-degree murder and child abuse resulting in death in connection with the death of his 4-month-old son, Jack.

Koller was arrested July 24 on suspicion of child abuse after bringing his then-7-week-old son to the hospital with critical injuries from alleged abuse -- including a skull fracture, multiple bruises, bite marks and scratches on his face.

Doctors told police that Jack had "considerable widespread brain damage," retinal hemorrhaging and bruising behind his ear "indicative of being grabbed by the ear."

The infant was released from the hospital in August into the care of his grandmother. The family had hoped the boy would recover, but he died Oct. 5, and the Boulder County Coroner's Office ruled his death a homicide in December.

John Meyer, chief pathologist for the Coroner's Office, testified at Tuesday's hearing that the infant died of delayed complications of blunt-force head injury, and he believes "a severe impact injury" had to have caused the skull fracture and brain hemorrhaging that Jack suffered. The injuries, according to testimony, were more consistent with a car accident or 10-foot fall than with a 2-foot drop onto a changing table.

Lafayette police Detective Scott Robinson testified Tuesday that when he asked Koller at the hospital how his son might have suffered the injuries, Koller admitted that he, at times, had become frustrated with Jack and covered the baby's nose and mouth with his fingers to get him to stop crying. Koller also admitted to once dropping Jack 2 feet onto a changing table, hitting his head on the wooden frame, Robinson said.

On the day that Koller and his common-law wife, Jennifer Schmidt, 20, took their son to the hospital, Robinson said another detective passed the parents in the emergency room and overheard part of their conversation.

"He heard Ben say something to Jen like, 'Why did you tell the doctors that?" Robinson said.

Koller eventually told Robinson that earlier that morning, Jack had been crying and then threw up and stopped breathing, according to Robinson's testimony.

Koller told the detective that he started CPR on the child by doing chest compressions with two fingers. The child remained unresponsive, so he said he shook the baby, pinched his son's feet and slapped his face, Robinson said. With still no response, Koller bit the baby's forearm and then bit his leg harder, Robinson said.

"He did finally get a response out of him and felt the baby was breathing at that point," Robinson testified.

Koller went back to sleep and didn't call 911, Robinson testified.

The father also admitted to Robinson that on several occasions, Jack had lunged backward while in his arms, prompting him to catch the infant by the ankle and swing him up to his chest.

Antonia Chiesa, a pediatrician at Children's Hospital in Denver who also is affiliated with the Kempe Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse and Neglect, testified that she's never heard of a caregiver handling a child so roughly.
Schmidt has not been arrested in connection with her son's death.

Koller is scheduled to enter a plea on the murder and child-abuse charges March 17.

Read more: Judge: Lafayette father Benjamin Koller can be tried for first-degree murder in infant's death - Boulder Daily Camera