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Old 03-29-2006, 03:47 PM   #10
Blackbear
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http://www.dailyranger.com/headline2.htm



Defense expert says ‘terminal
event’ for girl was in closet


By Walter Cook
Staff Writer
THERMOPOLIS — A Detroit pathologist who once testified on behalf of convicted Moneta murderer Dale Wayne Eaton testified for Andrew John Yellowbear Jr. Tuesday morning, saying the weeks of constant abuse the Riverton man is alleged to have inflicted upon his 22-month-old child, Marcela Hope Yellowbear, did not ultimately cause her death.
Rather, Dr. Daniel Spitz said, the action of Macalia Blackburn, the child’s mother, of hanging her in a closet by her overall straps on the night July 2, 2004, killed the child. Blackburn testified she did this because she thought the child’s legs were asleep and wanted her to walk again.
Blackburn has accepted a plea bargain for second-degree murder in exchange for testifying against Yellowbear, who is facing a first-degree murder charge and could be put to death if convicted. Each of the former lovers claims the other is responsible for the abuse that killed the child.
The defense rested Tuesday morning.
Spitz’s testimony was in contrast to that of the Colorado pathologist who conducted an autopsy on the child, Dr. Stephen Cina, who attributed her death to hypovolemia, a state of decreased blood volume.
Cina said this state was brought on through repetitive blunt-force injuries, which were evident in the form of bruises throughout the child’s body. Photos depicting the injuries were shown to jurors several times in the Hot Springs County Courthouse last week.
Spitz admitted the injuries that the child suffered between May 15-July 2, 2004, were contributing factors in her death, but he said it was the asphyxiation of the child that ultimately killed her. He said there’s no evidence the child lost 30-40 percent of her circulating blood volume, which, he said, would have been required for her to die of hypovolemia. (The 23-pound child’s entire blood volume would have been about 700 cubic centimeters, according to Spitz.)
Prosecutors argued that the manner in which the child was hung, according to Blackburn’s testimony, with a strap slid through her two front belt loops and tied to her suspenders, and then looped over a closet rod, wouldn’t have allowed the bib of the overalls to impinge upon the child’s airway, which Spitz originally theorized was the case while testifying at Yellowbear’s preliminary hearing more than a year ago.
Spitz told prosecutors that whether the airway was impinged is irrelevant, saying the action could have compressed the child’s chest or inhibited the blood vessels feeding her brain.
“All I know for certain is that clothing was used to suspend this child,” said Spitz, who has seen a videotape of Cina’s autopsy, as well as read the resulting report.
“This child does have a variety of injuries,” Spitz added. “The problem with that scenario is you cannot exclude what was going on at the time of her death. Asphyxiation is likely the mechanism of this child’s death.”
Spitz accused prosecutors of “losing sight of the whole picture.”
“This child died as a result of abusive injuries — blunt-force injuries, thermal injuries — and a suspension mechanism that can’t be ignored,” he said. “The child also had a terminal event. To pick one area of abuse and hone in on that at the expense of the others is erroneous.”
Spitz added that “there’s no doubt about it,” the “manner of (the child’s death) is a homicide.”
During Spitz’s cross-examination, Assistant Fremont County Attorney Kathy Kavanah went after him with no legal holds barred, even getting him to admit he was paid $1,500 by the defense to testify Tuesday and that he charges a $325-per-hour legal-medical consultation fee.
Kavanah said that even if being hanged in the closet was a contributing factor in the child’s death, the injuries she suffered — including third degree burns, cuts and bruises — would eventually have killed her.
Kavanah: “Do you agree she was in need of medical attention even before she was placed in the closet?” Spitz: “Her overall dehabilitated state would be a risk factor. To say this child is in the process of dying is an overstatement. There’s nothing to indicate this child would have died without the suspension mechanism.”
Kavanah: “But she would have died.”
Spitz: “Had this (abuse) continued, yes. Had she received medical attention, the child would have recovered from her injuries.”
No evidence was presented in over a week of witness testimony that indicated that Blackburn or Yellowbear ever sought medical attention for their child during the several weeks she was abused.
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