|10/11/2019 11:25:00 AM|
Mineral Point Miller Road Case goes to trial
After three and a half hours of testimony Tuesday Iowa County Judge Margaret Koehler determined there is enough evidence to bind Laurie Barry and Alexis Barry over for trial.
The mother and daughter are charged with first degree reckless homicide, party to a crime The charge is a Class B Felony and carries a penalty of up to 60 years in prison.
Iowa County District Attorney Matt Allen who is prosecuting the case will try and prove the Barrys played a role in the death of 13-year-old Selah Kaden who was in their care per an agreement with her parents, Lisa and Dave Kaden. A 911 call sent emergency medical personnel to 1049 Miller Road in the town of Mineral Point on May 31, 2018 around 4 p.m. and an hour and a half later Selah was pronounced deceased at Upland Hills Health.
It was revealed that Selah was staying with the Barrys because her younger sister would be undergoing heart surgery. The Kadens had eight children: six adopted and two that are biological. Selah was adopted from China when she was 19 months old.
Three witnesses testified at the hearing. The morning session was taken up by testimony from the two Iowa County Sheriff's Office detectives who investigated the case, Brian Fitzsimons and Lana Bowers. The afternoon was spent with both DA Allen and defense attorney George Brian Brophy questioning Dr. Michael A. Stier who performed the autopsy on the young girl.
Fitzsimons, a two year veteran in the detective role, was first questioned by DA Allen. He said he was told to respond to a call around 6 p.m. and was sent to the hospital to investigate a suspicious death from the 911 call.
Fitzsimons said he went to the hospital and interviewed the EMTS who had responded to the call and began documentation.
The deputy was told when EMTS arrived they found Selah in a recliner being held by one of the accused. He said the EMTS felt the caregivers seemed to feel there was no urgency and seemed unconcerned. He added the EMTS were unable to start an airway because Selah's teeth were clenched too tightly. They also discovered severe bruising over her entire body along with numerous injuries and abrasions. Her face, neck, wrists, chest, torso, legs and buttocks all showed signs of injury.
Fitzsimons said 911 was called around 4 p.m. when Laurie's husband Jesse came home from helping another of their daughters in Madison and checked Selah's heart rhythm. He said he felt heart movement but it was faint so he called 911.
When Selah arrived at the hospital her body temperature was 91 degrees which caused the ER doctor to feel she had been deceased for about four or five hours.
Upon cross by Brophy, Fitzsimons was asked if the temperature information was available from inside the house, outside, in the transport vehicle and at the ER. Fitzsimons told him no.
Fitzsimons said he had no contact with the Barrys at the hospital and was not aware if they were present. He said his orders were to investigate what was felt to be a suspicious death.
Bowers took the stand next and spent an hour and a half answering questions from both DA Allen and Brophy. She has been a detective with the ICSD since 2003.
Bowers said she was called in by Sheriff Steve Michek at 5:23 p.m. May 31, 2018 when the department was notified Selah had passed. She spoke with the EMTS also and received basically the same information as Fitzsimons.
Bowers then spent much of the night interviewing both Laurie and Alexis Barry with the session starting at the hospital and finishing at the Sheriff's Department. She said the interviews concluded around 1 a.m.
Bowers said she learned the Barrys and the Kadens were former neighbors and had the fact they homeschooled their children in common. The Barrys had provided respite care for another of the Kaden's children and when a younger child in the family was discovered to be in need of heart surgery they agreed to take Selah to alleviate some of the stress in the Kaden household. It was noted Selah has a reactive detachment disorder and was causing problems with the younger child. The plan was to have the Barrys handle respite care through the summer then the situation would be evaluated to determine length of stay.
Under questioning Bowers said she had learned that after April 24 when she was introduced into the Barry household, Selah's behavior escalated and periods of what the Barrys considered fake falling and self harm began to take place.
It was also stated that Selah lied about things frequently and started taking items not belonging to her. She would even go into the neighbor's homes and eat food that she knew would make her sick. Communication began to increase between the Barrys and the Kadens who now lived in North Carolina. Also, the Barrys were making an attempt to work with Selah about her actions, explaining the consequences of hurting herself.
Bowers said she had interviewed the Kadens June 1, June 7 then went to North Carolina on June 20 to speak with both the husband and wife.
Selah was allowed to contact her family whenever she wanted and talked to her mother on Mother's Day. When Selah found out that her mother and Laurie Barry were friends she started to feel there was competition for attention.
Bowers said in her interview with the Barrys that they had gotten up around 11 a.m. on May 31 and Alexis took Selah to the kitchen with her. Selah slept in the same room as Alexis and a younger Barry sister, Charity. The reason for the late arousal was because they were fostering some young raccoons and had been up during the night and early in the morning.
Selah and Alexis were in the kitchen when Selah indicated she needed to go to the bathroom and was told to wait as Alexis was tending to something cooking on the stove. Laurie then came into the kitchen and Selah said she was going to urinate all over the living room as she needed to go to the bathroom. Sometime later Selah fell and struck her head very hard. She then fell a second time, this time letting herself down easily.
Bowers said the Barrys decided to leave her on the floor as she seemed to be doing fine, was quiet and was shifting her position to get comfortable. She was also tracking them with her eyes. Laurie Barry told Bowers they checked on Selah every 10 minutes.
When Selah's color started to change Laurie began contacting Selah's family. At first the family felt there was no need to take her to the ER. When Jesse Barry got home he determined the situation was more serious and 911 was called.
According to Bowers Laurie and Alexis followed the ambulance to the hospital. When it was determined Selah was gone Laurie did not want to call her mother, instead asking an ER person to do it.
Under cross examination by Brophy he asked about the rural living situation and about the animals that Selah had befriended. It was learned in the days prior to her death when her personality was undergoing extreme change her relationship with the animals changed. The Barrys' animals included donkeys which can become agitated and Brophy wondered if they many have been the reason for the abrasions and injuries.
Brophy also pointed out the marks on Selah's wrists that looked like restraints could have been caused by bracelets she received as a gift from her mother. She would put the bracelets on, twist them and vary the tightness.
The final testimony came from Dr. Michael A Stier, an associate professor in forensic pathology with the University of Wisconsin Medical School.
Dr. Michael Stier earned his medical degree from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health (formerly UW Medical School) in Madison, WI. He continued his training through a residency at UW Hospital and Clinics along with fellowships at the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Officer and the University of Virginia Hospital and Clinics.
He has experience in determining cause of death, especially in suspicious or unexpected deaths. He has conducted over 4,000 autopsies to date.
Stier performed Selah's autopsy at 10:35 a.m. on June 1, 2018 at the UW Autopsy suite. In testimony, Stier stated that he had conducted two additional examinations of Selah on Saturday June 2, and Monday June 4 to re-approach the examination because the complexity of the case.
According to the Barry's, Selah had a history of self-sustaining injuries. However Stier's autopsy report says a different story, in terms of its multiple findings. The first finding lists blunt head trauma, acute and mixed. In other words, there were multiple contusions on top of the head. He also found these were acute lesions that occurred within "minutes or hours," prior to death.
He also found multiple facial contusions, but no lethal brain trauma. In his thoracic findings, there are reports of severe thoracic trauma through multiple contusions to Selah's front and back, along with intra thoracic acute hemorrhage to the heart and right lung. He also discovered a pattern injury consistent with a blackjack device.
Stier stated that he had never heard of a blackjack device until this autopsy.
He also found extensive limb trauma that included bruising and scrapes to the limbs, along with significant bruising on the left arm. He also noticed that the left wrist was broken.
What perhaps is most interesting in his findings is that the contusions to the buttocks were inconsistent with falling, as the lesions were much higher on Selah, and someone who falls upright would have lesions on the lower part of the buttocks.
He also found restraint marks on both wrists.
It is Stier's opinion that Selah did not undertake these injuries without some effort to a fight or to struggle.
"So it's my opinion that, if these are from a restraint which I believe they are, it was possibly from restraints being applied after Selah was no longer combative, and probably unconscious," Stier said.
He also stated that he found vertical lacerations on the inside of Selah's mouth indicating forceful manual (via use of hands) suffocation and holding of the mouth. He also found hemorrhages that tracked upward into the neck, from the mechanism of blockage to the nose and mouth, and negative pressure with the effort to try to breathe.
He also found a lack of significant chronic or remote injury, indicating no report of an injury that occurred months prior.
Stier concluded that Selah's death was due to "homicidal smothering and suffocation, and blunt force patterned beating." He stated that the lesions were in no way consistent to self sustained injury, and further concluded the multiple types and distributions of injury may constitute torture.
"I cannot imagine the scenario in which this child was willing to sustain such a beating without restraining," Stier said. "Therefore, it leads me to the interpretation or conclusion that more than one individual is involved in the fatality of this child."
Stier added that for Selah to sustain these many injuries, involving one or possibly two tools, this took time. "Time" is the reason why Stier used for the first time in his profession the word "torture.
"This child was suffering for time," Stier said. "It also is not a fast death to smother or suffocate someone. This takes minutes of applied force."
Brophy informed Stier in criminal proceedings that the burden of proof relies upon reasonable doubt, and that opinions to a degree of reasonable medical certainty are more probable than not, which Stier confirmed.
Stier informed Brophy that he received a call from Iowa County Coroner Wendell Hamlin about the death of Selah and that he had concerns. He had no other reports about the investigation other than discussions with members of the crime lab and with Detective Bowers, asking her questions about her findings.
He also informed Brophy that he did not know of Selah's condition when the EMTS arrived, and that her teeth were clenched.
Brophy had tried to establish that there could be alternate causes of death. Brophy questioned if Stier was aware that Selah had bracelets on her wrist, to which Stier said he did not see on her wrists. He also did not recall of any animals on the rural property as this was not given to him.
When Brophy questioned if a donkey could have caused the intra-thoracic injuries to the heart and lungs, after kicking Selah, Stier said that it may cause injury but not to that degree, thus not waivering from his findings towards the cause of death.
After reviewing the testimony from the three witnesses, Judge Koehler stated there is ample evidence that a felony had been committed and had the Barry's bound over for trial.
An arraignment is scheduled for Wednesday October 16 at 11:30 a.m.
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