Fayette man to face death penalty

| Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011

A Fayette County man accused of beating a 4-year-old boy to death will face the death penalty.

Patrick Ray Haney, 27, of Point Marion, is charged by state police with criminal homicide in the Sept. 13 death of Trenton Lewis St. Clair.

This morning, District Attorney Jack Heneks Jr. announced he will seek the death penalty against Haney.

Heneks indicated in a notice filed this morning that if Haney goes to trial and is convicted of first-degree homicide, prosecutors will cite torture and the victim's age as aggravating circumstances required for the death penalty.

In addition, Heneks said Trooper James Pierce at the Uniontown state police barracks will file a general homicide charge against Trenton's mother, Heather Louise Forsythe.

Forsythe, 27, currently is charged with child endangerment.

"Her conduct rose to at least the level of recklessness consistent with malice required by the homicide charge," Heneks said.

In a criminal complaint, Pierce alleges Haney beat Trenton over "an extended period of time" at a house he shared with Forsythe at 1129 Morgantown Road in Springhill Township.

A doctor who treated Trenton at Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, W. Va., testified during a preliminary hearing in October that Trenton was already dead when Haney brought him into the emergency room on Sept. 13.

"I saw a limp, blue child with no apparent signs of life," testified Dr. Hollynn Larrabee before McClellandtown District Judge Randy Abraham during a preliminary hearing . "I felt for a pulse. There was no pulse."

Trenton's grandmother, Sharon Smitley of Lake Lynn, said in October she would support efforts to secure the death penalty.

"I want him to have a slow, long death," Smitley said. "He needs to suffer, like my grandson did."

Larrabee testified Trenton's body was covered in fresh and old bruises, including to his face, jaw, cheek, chin, throat, eyes, left shoulder and abdomen. She testified the injuries were inconsistent with Haney's contention that Trenton had fallen down a flight of stairs.

"It is my strong opinion that is not consistent with the injury patterns that I observed," Larrabee testified. "I believe he suffered a traumatic death, that his injuries were secondary to trauma."

Larrabee testified Haney reported that Trenton fell unresponsive upon arrival at the emergency room. She testified that was unlikely, but she could not place a time of death beyond five to 10 minutes prior to the boy's arrival at the hospital.

"I believe that he had not just become unresponsive, that, in fact, he may have been dead for some time before he arrived," Larrabee testified.

Trooper Charles Morrison testified in October that preliminary results of an autopsy performed at Ruby Memorial determined cause of death was blunt force abdominal trauma.

Pierce testified Haney told him he hit Trenton in the face and on the back of the head. Haney, according to Pierce, said the beatings were a form of discipline, but he never intended to hurt Trenton.

Under cross-examination by defense attorney Brent Peck of Uniontown, Pierce acknowledged that the county's Children and Youth Services agency had investigated Forsythe for allegations of abuse at least four times prior to Trenton's death.

Forsythe in October waived her right to a preliminary hearing on the child endangerment charges. Her sister, Louella Forsythe of New Salem, said she believes that Heather Forsythe never harmed Trenton.

"Heather was good to her baby," Louella Forsythe said. "He was spoiled rotten. She made him listen, but she never put her hand on him, ever."

Peck said after the October hearing that Haney is innocent.

"There's a long way to go yet," Peck said. "There's a lot of facts that we're just learning about."

Haney and Forsythe are in the Fayette County Prison, where Haney is being held without bond and Forsythe in lieu of $250,000 bond.

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