A Columbia County jury will continue deliberations today in the trial of a Martinez woman charged in the 2009 death of a toddler she was baby-sitting.
The trial of Lawanda Concettes Tripp, 41, started Monday. Tripp is charged with murder in the death of 22-month-old Teaira Michele Hall, who was in Tripp’s care when she died on Nov. 15, 2009, from head injuries.
Tripp testified on Friday, the last day of testimony.
“I never did anything to hurt Teaira,” Tripp said. “I loved that little girl as if she was my own.”
Tripp’s attorney, Victor Hawk, referred to Tripp as the “innocent baby-sitter.” He said the toddler was sick and already had-existing head injuries when she was left in Tripp’s care.
Teaira banged her head during a tantrum, causing a seizure and ultimately, her death, he said.
“You don’t expect something like this to happen to the child,” Hawk said in his closing arguments. “The consequences to be so great, to be so fatal.”
Assistant District Attorney John Markwalter said that Teaira might have had previous injuries but that the fatal ones happened while in Tripp’s care and were likely inflicted by Tripp.
“We’ve witnessed the death of innocence in Columbia County with the death of this little girl,” Markwalter said.
Friday’s testimony began with Army Sgt. Samantha McCampbell, who could not attend the trial because she’s in military training in New York and testified via Skype.
Dr. John Plunkett, a forensic pathologist, also testified Friday for the defense. Plunkett agreed with the autopsy report, which said that Teaira died from head injuries. But Plunkett said evidence suggests that the large bruises found inside her scalp happened the day she died.
“Ultimately, the closed head injury and impact is the cause of Teaira’s death,” Plunkett said. “(The large bruises) look like something that occurred several days or a week (prior).”
He did find evidence that there could have been a fresh injury on top of an older one, indicating that another head injury sent Teaira into a seizure and stopped her respiratory and cardiac function.
“I know a head injury caused Teaira’s death, but I don’t know if she did the injury herself,” Plunkett said, “or if Ms. Tripp caused the injury.”
Markwalter said Tripp’s story changed several times as she recounted the events to law enforcement, emergency workers and Teaira’s family. Initially, some emergency workers believed Teaira might have choked on M&Ms.
Hawk said Tripp, who was hysterical and had no clue what was wrong with the toddler, only told emergency responders and others what she knew.
“She said the same thing from the beginning until the end today,” Hawk said Friday.
After deliberating for about four hours Friday evening, the jurors opted to return at 10 a.m. today.