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Defense may challenge autopsy in child’s death

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Posted: Wednesday, January 19, 2011 12:00 pm

By Philip Jankowski

Killeen Daily Herald

BELTON - Accused child killer Noah James Haggerty's defense team tipped its hand Tuesday, indicating that it may challenge autopsy findings in the death of his 4-month-old son in an upcoming trial.

Haggerty, 21, and co-defendant Kristina Marie Winston, 25, have both been implicated in injuries that ultimately led to the April 2009 death of their child, Isiah Haggerty, in Killeen. Winston and Haggerty are both charged with first-degree injury to a child. Haggerty also is charged with murder.

Haggerty's lawyer, Paul Lepak, made a motion to the court to accept an expert witness Tuesday morning. Lepak told the court he would use the testimony of an autopsy expert formerly employed with the Southwest Institute of Forensic Sciences in Dallas to explain the injuries observed to the child after his death.

Lepak said that while the autopsy report suggested the injuries to the infant were consistent with abuse, it listed the cause of death as undetermined.

Lepak's motion was accepted by 27th District Court Judge Joe Carroll; however, Carroll suggested Lepak find a different witness in anticipation of challenges from the prosecution that may mar Haggerty's defense or create delays.

Assistant District Attorney Murff Bledsoe argued the doctor Lepak had selected may have a conflict of interest, since she worked at the same medical examiner's officer during Isiah Haggerty's autopsy. The doctor, Amy Gruszecki, did not sign off on the autopsy; however, Bledsoe said she could have been involved.

Bledsoe said the prosecution also intends to call an expert witness regarding the autopsy.

Court documents show Isiah was severely injured prior to his death. Doctors observed retinal hemorrhaging, severe brain trauma, bruising to his legs and healing rib fractures.

A doctor told police the injuries were consistent with abuse.

A witness told Killeen police she had seen Isiah a few days prior to his death. She confronted Winston, telling her the child needed to be taken to a doctor.

Winston told the woman she could not take Isiah to the doctor because the nature of the injuries would likely prompt authorities to notify Child Protective Services.

Haggerty remains in custody at Bell County Jail. Winston is out on bail and has been ordered to stay with her parents in Temple.

Contact Philip Jankowski at philipj@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7553. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcrime.

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