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Jury selection ends in trial for Fayette County boy's beating death

| Saturday, March 8, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

A jury was seated late Friday in a Fayette County homicide case in which a Point Marion man is accused of killing a 4-year-old boy.

The trial against Patrick Ray Haney, 29, is expected to begin on Monday before Judge Nancy Vernon.

Haney is charged with criminal homicide and endangering the welfare of a child in the Sept. 13, 2011, death of Trenton Lewis St. Clair. State police allege Haney repeatedly beat the boy.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in the case.

Trenton's mother, Heather Louise Forsythe, 30, of New Salem, will testify against Haney in exchange for a plea bargain that calls for her to serve up to five years in prison on a charge of child endangerment.

Police said Forsythe did nothing to stop Haney from abusing Trenton and failed to take the child to a hospital until it was too late.

To seat the panel of 12 jurors and four alternates, attorneys began questioning candidates on Monday. The lengthy selection process included individual questioning of potential jurors by Assistant District Attorney Mark Mehalov and defense attorneys Jeremy Davis of Uniontown and Charles Carpinelli of Brownsville.

As of 5 p.m. Friday, the attorneys had questioned 117 candidates and selected 12 jurors and one alternate. The final three alternates were selected by 6:10 p.m.

Because the selection process took longer than anticipated, the testimony of forensic pathologist Matrina Schmidt was taken on Friday and preserved on video. Mehalov said jurors will be shown the video at some point during the trial.

Vernon, Haney and the attorneys were present for Schmidt's taped testimony.

During her plea hearing on Wednesday, Forsythe testified that she returned home from a funeral on Sept. 10, 2011, and found Haney standing over her son in an upstairs bedroom.

“I seen Patrick slapping and hitting on my child,” Forsythe testified. “I shoved Patrick off him.”

The beating left Trenton bruised and vomiting, Forsythe testified, but Haney would not let her take the boy to a hospital.

“I asked Patrick more than once to allow me to go to the hospital, but he said I was overreacting,” she said.

The couple waited for three days to take Trenton to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, W.Va., where he was pronounced dead.

During an October 2012 hearing, an emergency room doctor testified Trenton had bruises on his jaw, chin, neck, eyes, abdomen, arms and legs. The pattern of a hand was visible in some of the bruises, the doctor testified, and the child's abdomen was abnormally stiff and distended.

Forsythe had no comment as she was escorted back to jail after her plea hearing. She is to be sentenced on April 2 by President Judge John F. Wagner Jr.

Haney, who has been in court throughout jury selection, declined to comment on the prospect of Forsythe testifying against him.

The two are being held in the Fayette County jail without bail.

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

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