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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Baby beater now behind bars

Thursday, July 23, 2009

(Photo)
David Andrew Waldrup, 22, of Cave City, is escorted from the Sharp County courtroom July 14 by Baliff Mary Wanley after a jury sentenced him to 10 years in prison for hitting his 12-week-old son. Photo/Tammy Curtis
David Andrew Waldrup, 22, of Cave City was found guilty of first degree battery, a class Y felony, July 14 in Circuit Court in Sharp County with Judge Harold Erwin presiding. Waldrup was sentenced to 10 years in the Department of Corrections by a jury of eight women and four men.

The charges stemmed from an Aug. 20, 2008, incident when Waldrup and long time girlfriend Lacey Keener took their 12 week old infant to White River Medical Center in Batesville (WRMC) because he was not breathing normally, was unresponsive and had also experienced a previous episode of what the father described as "screaming bloody murder."

The baby was treated at WRMC and Tabitha Breshears, registered nurse, reported the injury as suspected child abuse to Child Protective Services. They, in turn, contacted the Sharp County Sheriff's Department and the Arkansas State Police. The baby was later air lifted to Arkansas Children's Hospital (ACH) due to the severity of the injuries.

Medical tests, including blood tests, X-rays and a head CT scan, conducted at both hospitals determined the baby had severe bleeding in the brain, healing rib fractures, two broken ribs, retinal hemorrhaging and a fold on one retina being discovered at ACH. The hemorrhaging was so severe the doctor who testified in the case said it made the whites of the baby's eyes red with blood.

Further tests were also conducted at ACH to rule out any diseases such as brittle bone disease or the child being an easy bleeder, each of these tests proved to be negative for the respective diseases.

Prosecutor Henry Boyce and Deputy Prosecutor Tom Garner presented the state's evidence in the Waldrup case.

Witnesses called to the stand for the prosecution were Dr. Jerry G. Stone, a physician from ACH who treated the child. He was qualified by the court as an expert in both pediatrics and child abuse cases, having specialized in pediatric child abuse since 1978. Wendall Jines an Arkansas State Police Investigator also testified via a recorded interview conducted with Waldrup the morning after the incident, while at ACH in Little Rock.

Jones was the first to take the stand for the state. He said he was called in the night of the injury as part of a team which is consulted by ACH to assist in cases where child abuse is suspected.

Jones described the injuries the baby received in detail and confirmed through his years of training that this type of injury was inflicted by either, "Very vigorous shaking or throwing the infant against something, or possibly a remarkably hard blow to the head." Jones also commented on the location of the bleeding saying it was between and behind the two halves of the cerebrum, (the thinking part of the brain).

Jones also elaborated on the rib fractures saying that the injuries weren't on the front side of the ribs as is customary in normal rib fractures, but rather on the back side near where the ribs wrap around and connect to the back bone. He said, "This is almost always due to a squeezing action, classic in child abuse cases." Jones said by radiology estimates the rib fractures were 2-8 weeks old.

Although in later testimony, both the child's grandparents and mother would attest to his apparent normal health, Dr. Jones said that children who suffer these types of injuries may appear normal and learning problems may manifest as the child gets older.

Waldrup's attorney R.T. Starken disputed the brain injury's seriousness by stating that there was no swelling which is normally what causes death in this type of injuries. Starken also told the jury that there were no surgeries required for the baby's condition, as well as no skull fracture present in the infant. Starken explored the possibility that the injury could have occurred from other means than Waldrup's striking the baby. He also questioned who had guardianship of the baby at the time the rib injuries occurred. Starken also introduced the WRMC seven page admission and treatment record stating that most of the findings appeared in the normal on the documents, including the baby's vital signs at the time of the report.

On redirect, Boyce asked Jones to evaluate and give expert testimony regarding the WRMC admissions records introduced by Starken and to testify to the child's diagnosis prior to being transferred to ACH. Jones told the court, according to the report, the baby had a "subdural hematoma," the high level of urgency was indicated by the transport being required by helicopter.

Wendall Jines was the second witness to take the stand for the state. Jines is a criminal investigator for the Arkansas State Police. He was contacted by the Crimes Against Children's Division of the Arkansas State Police and conducted an interview with Waldrup at ACH the morning of Aug. 21, 2008, where Waldrup was arrested on a probable cause warrant.

Jines played for the court the interview with Waldrup in which he created a timeline of the events that led to the infant's injury and then further questioned Waldrup regarding the healing injuries.

Waldrup first admitted to Jines that he had trouble waking the child for his 11:30 p.m. feeding and that when the baby did awaken he was jerking, so, he put him against him and then set him in his bouncy seat because he was screaming. He then went to the kitchen to make the child a bottle. Waldrup said when he came back to check on the child he had stopped screaming and was laying there pale with his mouth open. Waldrup said he thought, "He was just laying there watching TV."

When the baby didn't respond, Waldrup said he picked him up and started patting him progressively harder until he appeared to perk up.

On five different occasions during the interview with Jines, Waldrup admitted to having a long time anger management problem. He also admitted to playing too rough, throwing the babies on the bed, yelling at them and spinning the prematurely born twins around as they grinned. Jines interjected at that point in the interview to point out that the babies were preemies and should only be about four weeks old and that they do not like being tossed around. Waldrup also said he had told his wife he needs help with his anger, but didn't know where to go to obtain this help.

At numerous times in the interview Jines tried to get Waldrup to admit to shaking the babies and each time he denied the accusations. As the interview progressed Waldrup became very emotional and sobbed when telling Jines, "I smacked him once," but a few minutes later said, "One or twice." He also told Jines that he gets mad for no apparent reason and loses his temper quickly.

Jines compared the child's injuries to those received in the sport of boxing where a person gets knocked out and then comes around, but is groggy. Jines then asked Waldrup to tell his girlfriend about the injuries he had caused to the baby. When told about the baby's injuries Kenner asked, "How could you do that and not mean to?"

Deputy Prosecutor Tom Garner asked Jines to clarify the physical motion that was made by Waldrup on the audio tape in regard to demonstrating the manner in which he struck the infant. Jines demonstrated with a closed fist a swing toward the temple area of the child's head.

Jines then continued to interview Waldrup regarding the rib injuries after his admission to the striking that caused the head injury. Waldrup denied any memory of hurting the baby's ribs and said it could have happened from him pushing the seven and a half pound baby's knees into his stomach when he was gassy.

The second interview conducted by Jines was at the Sharp County Sheriff's Department. Jines said the suspect was read his Miranda rights and he initialled and signed the waiver to answer the questions. Waldrup verified with his signature the orignal information in the typed interview conducted at ACH.

In defense, Starken attempted to discredit the prosecution's interview techniques and said that there were two officers present and that Waldrup was sleep deprived at the time of the interview, having been up for 26 hours. He also questioned the numerous times Jines offered "help" to Waldrup, implying that Jines was not qualified to "help" the defendant. Jines said he could refer Waldrup for mental or physiological counseling if needed. Starken said that there was no witness to the striking of the child, despite Waldrup's confession.

Testifying first for the defense was Lacey Keener, Waldrup's long time girlfriend.

Keener disputed David's anger problem and said that he was a good father and companion and that she had never witnessed him harm the babies and also testified that he had never hit her. Keener told the jury he had been home all evening with her the night of the incident. This contradicted the statement given by Waldrup to Jines where he said he had went to town for cigarettes earlier in the evening.

In Garner's questioning of Keener, he asked if she believed Waldrup had harmed the baby and she said she didn't, despite expert medical testimony. Garner also told the court that Keener only has court ordered visitation with her children, who her mother has custody of, only in the "sight and sound" of one of her parents.

The defense called Angela Waldrup, David's mother as the second witness. She testified that she was not aware of any anger problem with David.

The final witness for the defense was Brenda Jameson, Keener's mother. She told the court that she was the permanent guardian of all three of the Waldrup children and also said that she had never witnessed David display signs of an anger problem. Jameson told the court that she did not feel the children would be at risk if they were allowed to see David. Waldrup has a court order for no contact with the children.

In Garner's questioning of Jameson, he asked if she knew where her daughter lives. Jameson told the court "Probably with David." This is in direct violation of a court order that the two not reside together and disputes Waldrup's mothers testimony that he lives with a male roommate.

Prior to going out for deliberation, Boyce informed the jurors the state did not have to prove the child is still in an injured state, but merely that Waldrup created a substantial risk of death to the baby to constitute first degree battery.

Boyce also defended the interview technique used by Jines and told the court Waldrup's denial of the accusations of shaking the baby numerous times during the interview showed he was not intimidated by the investigators questioning him.

Starken asked the jury to consider the case more about "who done it" and the fact that the recorded confession was taped after the defendant had been awake for 26 hours. Starken said, "The police broke David to the point of fantasy," and requested the evidence be denied.

The jury deliberated for nearly three hours before handing down a guilty verdict. Waldrup appeared calm and relaxed sitting one foot in the chair as his sentence was announced.

When Judge Erwin asked for further testimony, Waldrup took the stand. Starken questioned Waldrup about his life, education and future goals prior to sentencing. After being found guilty, Waldrup displayed some emotion by crying quietly.

Waldrup was sentenced to the minimum sentence of 10 years in the Department of Corrections by the jury. The range of punishment for a class Y felony is 10-40 years or life in prison. Judge Harold Erwin set Waldrup's appeal bond at $225,000.

District Attorney Henry Boyce said, "I am pleased any time we are able to present our evidence to a jury and let them decide the case. We have done our job."



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