Friday, April 6, 2012

Dad faces 1st-degree murder charge in death of 1-year-old son (Shreveport, Louisiana)

Dad is identified as RODRICUS CRAWFORD.

Father faces first-degree murder charge in death of son

10:58 AM, Apr. 5, 2012  

Written by Loresha Wilson

A Caddo judge found Wednesday that prosecutors had enough evidence to charge Rodricus Crawford with first-degree murder in the death of his 1-year-old son.

Judge Mike Pitman increased the charges against Crawford, 23, who had been charged with second-degree murder, after learning an autopsy of Roderius Lott revealed the child was smothered. The autopsy also showed the boy had 13 bruises on his face and head. Other bruises were found on his abdomen, back and buttocks.

Anticipating one angle of defense, Assistant District Attorney Dale Cox asked a forensic pathologist whether such injuries — which included contusions and hemorrhages — might be caused from a fall.

"I found there was intentional use of force against this child," Dr. James Traylor testified in court Wednesday during Crawford's preliminary examination. Traylor performed Lott's autopsy.

"In a 1-year-old, they don't have the means of inflicting that kind of injury to themselves. Someone applied intentional force trauma on this child in more than one area," he said.

Traylor was asked whether CPR — another promised line of defense — can cause such injury to the lips.

"You've got a lot of injuries here, and even without the other trauma to the buttocks and head, I would still call it smothering. Someone directly applied force over his oral cavity," Traylor said.

Lott was found unresponsive at his father's Mooretown residence Feb. 16. Emergency workers noted he also was bleeding from the nose and both ears. They also saw signs of physical abuse in the boy's face. Crawford subsequently was arrested on drug charges and later charged with second-degree murder.

His defense lawyer has indicated that he plans to show that Lott's injuries may have come from a fall — and the asphyxia is the result of someone rolling on the child while he slept.

On cross-examination, attorney Daryl Gold attempted to press Traylor to concede that Lott's facial injuries were consistent with a child who fell between a bathtub and toilet, striking both before resting on the floor. But Traylor said the boy would have one or two bruises on the face not seven.

Gold, in defending his client, pointed out inconsistencies in the state's case. Lott's death certificate, dated March 26 and signed by Caddo Parish Coroner Todd Thoma, indicates the boy died of suffocation. But in the March 7 autopsy report, Traylor notes the cause of death as smothering.

Smothering might connote an intentional act from outside of one's self, where suffocation, on the other hand, can be the result of benign circumstances.

"As far as the weight of the evidence, the cause of death is different from the death certificate," Gold argued. "I don't think the weight is consistent with first-degree murder."

Gold also pointed out that the report indicates a resident at LSU Hospital in Shreveport conducted the autopsy note for Traylor, but Traylor called it a computer issue.

In a portion of the police report read during Wednesday's hearing, Crawford and the child's mother told authorities the baby fell in the bathroom a couple of days before his death. At the time, police didin't believe foul play was involved and said both accounts of what happened to Lott "matched."

The Caddo grand jury will review the case later this month. Arraignment is set for May 3.

Crawford remains in Caddo Correctional Center without bail.