Trial of Martinez woman charged in death of toddler ends in mistrial

The trial of a Martinez woman charged in the 2009 death of a toddler she was baby-sitting ended in a mistrial Saturday.

Lawanda Concettes Tripp, 41, is charged with murder in the death of 22-month-old Teaira Michele Hall, who was in Tripp’s care when she died Nov. 15, 2009, from head injuries.

Superior Court Judge Michael N. Annis declared a mistrial Sat­ur­day evening after the jurors announced they were deadlocked after more than 11 hours over two days of deliberations.

“There’s going to be a retrial,” said Tripp’s attorney, Victor Hawk.

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

There were differing opinions from medical experts testifying for both sides as to when the fatal injuries might have occurred. Both experts said large bruises on the inside of Teaira’s scalp were old, possibly with new bruises superimposed on top.

Hawk said the injuries happened before Tripp took care of Teaira and that the toddler was sick when she was left in Tripp’s care. Teaira banged her head during a tantrum, causing a seizure and ultimately her death, he said.

Markwalter said Teaira might have had previous injuries but that the fatal ones happened while in Tripp’s care and were likely inflicted by Tripp.

Tripp, who testified Friday afternoon, denied harming Teaira.

“I never did anything to hurt Teaira,” she said. “I loved that little girl as if she was my own.”

Annis said he will work with attorneys and reschedule the trial, possibly for September or October.

“Right now, everybody is going to re-evaluate their position and decide how to move forward,” Markwalter said.

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