Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Forensic expert: Murdered girl suffered "inflicted trauma" at hands of custodial dad, step (Muncie, Indiana)

We've posted on this case several times. Once again, notice how the custodial dad, RYAN MCCONNIEL, and the step tried to blame the abused girl's poor condition on the little girl's mother--though the mother had lost custody months before and had no contact. Typical slick abuser move. Daddy and the step appear to be that truly scary combination of truly manipulative and truly scary.

Forensic expert: Lauren McConniel suffered 'inflicted trauma'9:35 PM, May. 17, 2011
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MUNCIE -- Lauren McConniel was the victim of "inflicted trauma (and) child abuse," according to a forensic pediatrician who last year helped treat the emaciated and dying Muncie girl in the final days of her life.

Antoinette Laskey, who leads the Indiana State Child Fatality Review Team in addition to her duties at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, might end up being the final prosecution witness in the trial of Lauren's stepmother, Brittany McConniel.

The 25-year-old defendant, now listed in court records at a Farmland address, is charged with neglect of a dependent resulting in death, a Class A felony carrying a standard 30-year prison term.

Prosecutors Jeffrey Arnold and Eric Hoffman are expected to rest their case soon after the Delaware Circuit Court 5 trial resumes at 8:30 a.m. today.

Public defender Zaki Ali will then begin presenting his case, which might include the testimony of his client.

McConniel and her then-husband, Ryan, are accused of failing to seek medical treatment for Lauren as she experienced a dramatic physical and emotional decline after being removed from the custody of her mother, who lives in Tennessee, in August 2009.

By the time the McConniels took Lauren to Riley Hospital on March 3, 2010, she was extremely malnourished and apparently had recently ingested enough salt to cause her death six days later.

Laskey on Tuesday recalled her first glimpse of the dying girl in Riley's pediatric intensive care unit.

"I couldn't believe she was still alive," said the pediatrician. "I see a lot of kids, but it was that bad. ... There was nothing to her, not a single ounce of body fat. She was covered in bruises."

Laskey said Lauren, at 5 years and 5 months of age, weighed less than 29 pounds, the average weight for a 30-month-old girl.

It quickly became apparent Lauren's brain injuries, caused by the massive dose of salt, would make recovery impossible, she said.

"We tried very hard to save Lauren," the witness said. "The fact is that she (was) in total system failure."

With images of the girl taken during her hospitalization being displayed on a large screen, Laskey used a laser pointer to emphasize how painfully thin the child had become while in the care of her father and stepmother.

She also pointed out bruises -- some on Lauren's back, legs and the soles of her feet. The latter injuries appeared consistent with allegations -- from Ryan McConniel, who has struck a plea deal with prosecutors, and the couple's other children -- that Brittany McConniel and her stepfather, Robert E. Lee, used wooden sticks to beat Lauren on the hands and feet.

Other bruises also appear to have been inflicted elsewhere on her body with a similar object.

Laskey also said that contrary to claims by the McConniels that Lauren had been treated for a broken finger suffered in a fall, X-rays showed healing fractures of bones in her hand, consistent with similar abuse.

In a March 2010 interview with police -- portions of which shown to jurors on Monday and Tuesday -- Brittany McConniel denied allegations that she beat her stepdaughter's hands and feet.

"I did not do that," she insisted, while acknowledging she was "not a perfect parent, not even close."

While the McConniels said Lauren's significant weight loss came during her final weeks, Laskey testified Tuesday that the girl's extreme emaciation would have been the result of malnutrition suffered over an extended period.

The pediatrician called forced exercise -- which witnesses have said Brittany McConniel and Lee used as another method to punish Lauren -- a form of "torture."

She also said she suspected "punishment" might have been a factor in the events that led to Lauren's ingestion of a fatal amount of salt.

Asked by public defender Zaki Ali who had inflicted Lauren's bruises or given her the salt, Laskey responded, "I don't know."

But the pediatrician said she was "fairly clearly told that Brittany was the primary caregiver for Lauren, because Ryan was always at work or at school."

Laskey also said when she questioned the McConniels about what adults lived in their home, neither mentioned their housemates the Lees -- Robert E. Lee; his wife, Angela, who is the defendant's mother, and their other adult daughter.

In her 2010 statement to police, Brittany McConniel said that Robert E. Lee repeatedly molested her for about a decade beginning when she was 5 years old.