Saturday, July 19, 2014

Dad with history of DV found guilty of felony murder in death of 4-month-old daughter (Ypsilanti Township, Michigan)

Dad is identified as DEVONTAH NELSON.

Judge finds Ypsilanti Township father guilty of killing 4-month-old daughter

By John Counts on July 18, 2014 at 4:17 PM, updated July 18, 2014 at 11:39 PM

A Washtenaw County judge determined a 20-year-old Ypsilanti Township man is guilty of both first-degree child abuse and felony murder for throwing and punching his 4-month-old daughter.

Judge Donald Shelton found Devontah Nelson guilty as charged after hearing a week of testimony and reviewing evidence in the bench trial.

Nelson has given several versions of what happened Oct. 9 in the 2300 block of East Ellsworth Road of Ypsilanti Township between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., when paramedics were called to the apartment by Nelson because his daughter, Amareah, wasn't breathing.

She later died at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital.

Nelson even testified at the trial, but Shelton didn't buy it.

"It was apparent to me that the defendant was willing to say anything he could get away with without admitting to his child's death," Shelton said. "The defendant is and had been lying from the beginning. We're probably never going to know what specifically happened in that apartment. Only the defendant knows. And a 2-year-old."

Shelton was referring to Amareah's toddler brother, who was in the residence at the time.

During Friday's closing statements, Nelson's attorney Matthew Chaiken tried casting doubt on the autopsy performed by Washtenaw County Medical Examiner Jeffery Jentzen, calling it "botched."

"There are problems with this autopsy," he said. "Some of the evidence was actually falsified. Dr. Jenzten had a preconceived notion of a shaken and beaten child."

Chaiken went through detailed medical analysis in an attempt to support a theory the autopsy wasn't done properly and that detectives based their interrogation of Nelson, during which he came close to confessing, on the "botched" autopsy.

The defense argued Nelson wasn't beating Amareah, but that she slipped off the bed and hit her head on the metal frame. Nelson attempted administering CPR, which may have caused the injuries on her body, the defense claimed. But even the doctor called by the defense testified that a fall from the distance of a bed was unlikely to cause the type of fatal brain trauma that killed Amareah.

Shelton wasn't convinced.

"I do find the autopsy to have been properly done," he said. "This baby ... was thrown and punched to her death by the defendant."

Assistant Washtenaw County Prosecutor Blaine Longsworth said Nelson has a history of child abuse, having hit the 2-year-old boy with a belt. Nelson's girlfriend also admitted he had beaten, kicked and tried strangling her, according to Longsworth.

Longsworth said there was overwhelming evidence Nelson killed the 4-month-old.

"The defendant slammed the life right out of her and has attempted to cover that up until this very moment," he said.

Officials with the Wastenaw County Sheriff's Office, who investigated the homicide, were pleased with the judge's verdict.

“This is the best possible outcome for a horrible, tragic situation,” said spokesman Derrick Jackson. “Holding accountable the person who killed this child is what we were hoping to do.”

Nelson's mother, Cynthia, said her son is still in her prayers. "No one knows what really happened," she said.

Nelson faces life in prison. He is set to be sentenced Aug. 12 by Shelton.