Retrial of Martinez woman charged in toddler's death to continue Thursday

Lawanda Tripp enters the courtroom after the lunch break as her trial for the death of a child she was baby-sitting resumes.

Jurors listened to a 911 call on Wednesday in which the woman charged in the death of a toddler she was baby-sitting could be heard screaming that the child had injured herself.


The call was placed by neighbors of Lawanda Concettes Tripp as they tried to administer aid to 22-month-old Teaira Michele Hall, who was in Tripp’s care when she died from head injuries Nov. 15, 2009. In the background, a hysterical Tripp is heard saying that Teaira was crying, hitting her head and screaming.

The trial is the second for Tripp, 41, who was charged with murder in the death of Teaira. The first trial began Aug. 6, but Super­ior Court Judge Michael N. Annis declared a mistrial Aug. 11 when jurors announced they were deadlocked after more than 11 hours of deliberation.

On Tuesday, a doctor testified that Teaira’s fatal injuries were likely not the result of tantrum head-banging. On Wednesday, the emergency workers who responded described the child as having a weak pulse and not breathing.

“The child was very sick,” emergency room physician David Coffin said.

Emergency medical technician Carl Lynn testified Wednesday that on the way to the hospital Tripp “kept saying over and over, ‘I should have picked her up.’ ”

A Georgia Bureau of Investigation forensic computer analyst, who examined Tripp’s computer, also testified Wednesday. She said that in the hours after Teaira was taken to the hospital, when Tripp didn’t yet know the child had died, Tripp spent hours doing Internet searches about children with tantrums, the consequences and children on ventilators.

The searches also included several of what seemed to be prayers for Teaira, such as, “Please God help TT. She is not breathing on her own and is just a baby.”

Teaira died from traumatic head injuries, according to Columbia County Coroner Vernon Collins. She suffered injuries and swelling to her brain and optical structures, prosecuting attorney John Markwalter said.

When she testified at the first trial, Tripp denied harming Teaira.

Her attorney, Victor Hawk, said Teaira was left in Tripp’s care sick and with existing head injuries. Teaira banged her head during a tantrum, causing a seizure and ultimately her death, Hawk said.

Tripp said that she yelled at the toddler to stop while she hurried to get ready to take her to McDonald’s.

During an interview with Columbia County sheriff’s Sgt. James Moss the night of Teaira’s death, Tripp said she felt guilty for not physically stopping Teaira from banging her head.

“I feel so responsible,” Tripp told Moss. “I should have picked the child up. It’s all my fault.”

Teaira’s mother, Antoin­ette Hall, testified that her daughter seemed happy and healthy when she left her in Tripp’s care. She said her daughter sometimes banged her head during tantrums.

The jury will return to the courtroom at 9 a.m. today for more testimony and possibly the conclusion of the prosecution’s case.

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