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Prosecution rests in case of Wilkinsburg mother charged with killing 3-year-old

| Monday, Aug. 22, 2016, 4:42 p.m.

Aside from some bleeding beneath the surface of Adrionna Williams' eyes, there were no signs why the 3-year-old was found dead just over an hour after she was last seen happy and alive June 14, 2015, a doctor said Monday.

As testimony wrapped up in the homicide trial for the girl's mother, Adrienne Williams, 27, of Wilkinsburg, Allegheny County Deputy Medical Examiner Dr. Abdulrezak Shakir said Monday that Adrionna had only shallow scrapes and scratches on her face, back and arms — none of which indicated the kind of trauma that could have killed her.

“All of these are superficial,” he said. “There is no deep-seated trauma related to any of these injuries.”

Examining her eyes, he said, showed some bleeding that is seen in cases where the chest or neck is compressed. Although there was no trauma to the girl's neck or throat to indicate strangulation, Dr. Shakir said trauma isn't apparent in every case.

Lacking any other evidence for why Adrionna died and was found more than two miles from the grandmother's house where she'd last been seen just 74 minutes earlier, Shakir ruled her death a homicide by asphyxiation, he testified Monday. Using surveillance cameras, cell phone records and colorful paperclips found around the body and in Adrienne's car, police charged Adrienne with homicide several weeks after Adrionna was found dead in Swissvale.

Other witnesses from the Medical Examiner's Office crime lab said Adrionna's DNA was in several red-orange stains on her mother's work shirt, which she'd changed out of and left in her car while she and family members searched for Adrionna. Microscopic and chemical comparisons between Adrionna's stomach contents and a sample from one of the shirt stains were consistent with Adrionna's last meal of watermelon.

Assistant District Attorney Kevin Chernosky rested the prosecution's case Monday afternoon. Defense Attorney Brandon Herring argued that Common Pleas Judge Anthony Mariani should acquit Adrienne Williams of the possible murder or manslaughter charges right then because the prosecution hadn't presented any evidence that Williams had directly caused her daughter's death or was responsible for letting it happen.

Chernosky said that to asphyxiate Adrionna, Adrienne would have had to keep her from getting air for more than a few seconds — long enough to know what she was doing and form an intention to kill. Mariani, required by law at that point in the trial to give the prosecution the benefit of the doubt, denied Herring's motion.

Whether the defense calls any witnesses Tuesday will depend on an ongoing investigation into allegations that a foster child had died in Adrienne's mother's care 20 years ago in Buffalo, N.Y., Herring said. The allegations from a potential witness in New York came to light Thursday and caused a delay in the trial while the defense attempted to verify the claim, but the witness stopped cooperating with them, Herring said.

He asked the judge for a mistrial Friday because the defense didn't have enough time mid-trial to fully investigate the claim, but Mariani denied the request Monday afternoon.

Any defense witnesses will be called Tuesday, otherwise the attorneys will make their closing arguments and the jury will begin deliberating.

Matthew Santoni is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412 391 0927 or

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