Indiana County homicide suspect covered toddler's mouth, trooper testifies
An Indiana County man held his hand over the mouth of his 22-month-old stepson for 10 to 20 seconds, Trooper Deana Kirkland testified on Tuesday.
“I believe it was because (the child) was whining or whimpering,” Kirkland said during a preliminary hearing for Juan Raul Campbell, 28, of Burrell Township.
Malachi Patterson was taken to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh on May 17 because he was found unresponsive. He died two days later.
District Judge George Thachik ordered Campbell to stand trial on homicide and related charges.
Prosecutors allege that Malachi died as a result of Campbell's actions on May 17.
Abdulrezak Shakir, a pathologist with the Allegheny County medical examiner's office, testified that Malachi died as result of a brain injury from lack of oxygen. He ruled the death a homicide but agreed on cross-examination that the baby's mouth could have been covered by something else.
“In this situation, the covering of the mouth and the nose of a baby is an obvious act that would lead to the preventing of the breathing of that baby,” Shakir said.
Kirkland testified that investigators suspected abuse and interviewed the victim's grandmother and Campbell, who is married to Malachi's mother, Jamie Patterson Campbell. At the time of the death, she was in a hospital after giving birth, police said.
Police initially filed charges against Juan Campbell on May 18 and amended them two days later to add a homicide charge because Malachi died, Kirkland said.
During an interview on May 19, Campbell “admitted to putting his hand on Malachi's mouth to quiet him,” Kirkland testified.
In that interview, Campbell told police he used heroin around the time of the incident and hadn't had much sleep, Kirkland said.
Indiana County Children & Youth Services was assessing the family at the time of Malachi's death.
Malachi had a broken left femur and was wearing a cast that encompassed the lower half of his body, investigators have said.
The boy's grandmother, Linda Patterson, told police she put Malachi to bed in the baby's room about 9:30 p.m. May 16.
At 2:30 a.m., Patterson said, Campbell alerted her to a problem with Malachi. Patterson told police she found the child unresponsive with a bruise on his left cheek.
Campbell is being held in the Indiana County Jail on charges of homicide, aggravated assault, endangering the welfare of children and reckless endangerment.
Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-837-5374 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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