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Doctor: Abuse of Fayette boy, 4, 'one of the worst' cases she's seen

| Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012, 12:02 a.m.

An emergency-room doctor who treated a 4-year-old Fayette County boy who police said was beaten to death by his mother's boyfriend testified she has never encountered a worse case of abuse.

“I've seen many cases of abuse,” Dr. Hollynn Larrabee testified during a pretrial hearing for Patrick Ray Haney Wednesday before Judge John F. Wagner Jr. “This is one of the worst, if not the worst, abuse cases I have ever seen.”

Haney and Heather Louise Forsythe, both 28 and of Point Marion, are charged by state police with criminal homicide and child endangerment in the Sept. 13, 2011, death of Forsythe's son, Trenton Lewis St. Clair.

Haney, who faces the death penalty if convicted, was in court Wednesday on a pretrial motion seeking to have the death penalty taken off the table. In addition, his attorney, Jeremy Davis of Uniontown, wants charges of first- and third-degree homicide dismissed, and Haney's statements to police suppressed.

On Sept. 13, 2011, the couple took Trenton to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, W.Va., where he was pronounced dead. An autopsy performed in West Virginia lists the cause of death as peritonitis from an abdominal injury caused by battering. Larrabee, who treated Trenton in the emergency room, came close to tears as she described finding numerous bruises on Trenton's jaw, chin, neck, eyes, abdomen, arms and legs. A hand pattern was noticeable in some of the bruises, she said, and his abdomen was abnormally stiff and distended.

The injuries were not consistent with Haney's alleged claim that Trenton had fallen down stairs, Larrabee testified.

“I have absolutely no doubt in my mind this was not secondary to a fall,” Larrabee testified.

“I believe with complete certainty that the cause of death was non-accidental trauma.”

Under cross-examination, Larrabee acknowledged she could not discern from Trenton's injuries who had inflicted them.

The investigating officer, Trooper James Pierce, testified Haney waived his right to remain silent or have an attorney present when he was questioned at 3:30 a.m. Sept. 14, 2011, at the barracks in Uniontown.

Pierce testified Haney told him he hit Trenton in the back of the head and in the face as a form of discipline. When asked if he had remorse, Pierce testified, Haney told him, “‘Of course, I feel remorse. He was only 4 years old.”

Pierce said Haney then requested an attorney and did not offer any additional statements.

The hearing was attended by a dozen people who wore T shirts bearing Trenton's likeness on the front and, on the back, the words “In honor of Trenton Lewis St. Clair, please help prevent child abuse.”

After the hearing, Trenton's grandmother, Sharon Smitley of Lake Lynn, said her hope is that Wagner rejects Haney's motion because she favors the death penalty.

“I want him to suffer every day of his life,” Smitley said. “What kind of a monster can beat up a baby?”

Wagner did not rule on Haney's motion because a forensic pathologist who Assistant District Attorney Linda Cordaro wanted to call was unavailable. That witness is expected to testify at a date to be determined.

Haney and Forsythe are in Fayette County Prison without bond.

Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at lzemba@tribweb.com or 412-601-2166.

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