Hudson toddler's mom takes stand in child death trial

Samantha Wideman mug shot courtesy of Nacogdoches County Jail.
Samantha Wideman mug shot courtesy of Nacogdoches County Jail.

By Jena Johnson - email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Day one of the trial of a Lufkin woman accused in a toddler's death began with a packed courthouse, lined with rows of more than a dozen supporters wearing baby blue ribbons.

Assistant District Attorney Dale Summa presented the state's opening argument to a jury consisting of ten men and three women.

"On Sept. 1, 2007, Scott Landers put in a call to 911 pertaining to Ian," said Summa. "Ian was in such bad shape he was life flighted."

"The evidence will show that on Sept. 1, 2007 sometime after 10:30 a.m., Ian was unconscious," said Summa. He pointed out to the jury that the call to 911 wasn't made until 11:07 a.m., 37 minutes after the boy was discovered to be unconscious.

Summa told the jury they will hear from several witnesses, including different people in the medical field, as well as a former good friend of the defendant, Samantha Wideman.

"The defendant had admitted to her that she hated Ian," said Summa. "Whether it was jealousy of Ian or a constant reminder of the other woman."

Wideman's defense attorney began his opening statement by telling the jury "accidents happen".

"That's just part of life," Ryan Deaton said. "It's also part of life that accidents cause the death of children."

"The facts are going to show there is no evidence that Samantha hurt Ian in any way," said Deaton.

Deaton explained that Wideman was the primary babysitter for her two-month-old daughter, four-year-old daughter and Ian, 2. He said Ian and the four-year-old were tugging on a toy and Ian fell back on the family's entertainment center; a possible explanation for Ian's severe head injuries.

On August 31, 2007, Ian was found unconscious. Deaton said Wideman took Ian to the emergency room, explaining he had "knocked himself out".

"This is where everything went terribly wrong," Deaton said. "The doctor puts 'allegedly knocked out,' as if he didn't believe her."

Deaton said under the bump on Ian's head, doctors would later find there was a brain leak.

"Had the doctors done a CT scan, had the doctors done an MRI, we wouldn't be here today," he stated.

He said evidence will show that if the doctors had done what they were supposed to do, Ian would still be alive.

"Samantha did nothing wrong, this child died by accident," Deaton said. "Or the four-year-old, who everyone said was a mean child, could have caused this to Ian."

A family spokesperson for Tonya Lyon, Ian's mother, expressed anger Deaton would put blame on a four-year-old child.

Lyon was called to the stand as the state's first witness.

Summa began by asking Lyon to describe the significance of a photograph of Ian and her daughter from a previous marriage.

"Those are my babies," she said, crying. "It was the last one I had made of them together."

Lyon testified she first learned of Wideman in February 2006 when she was introduced as her estranged husband's girlfriend. Scott Landers and Lyon weren't legally divorced until October 2006.

During that time period, she explained they shared custody of Ian, which was usually a week rotation because of his age.

In September 2006, Lyon testified she took Ian to the ER for scratches on his face and a bruise behind his ear.

CPS investigated, but decided not to take action.

On August 14, 2007, Lyon testified there were visible injuries on her son.

"I picked-up Ian at about 10 a.m. in the morning," she said. "He had visible bruises on the back of his head. So, I called CPS and went home to pack his bag for the ER. When I went home to get his bag, I changed his pull-up and he had bruises on his penis."

Summa pulled out photographs taken by Lyon of the injuries she documented.

"His whole left side of his head is like a green bruise," she said in between sobs pointing at the photograph of Ian's head.

Ian would make two more trips to the ER before his final trip, ending at a Houston hospital Sept. 1, 2007.

Lyon testified she was in Galveston for an annual Memorial Day weekend vacation when she received a text message.

"I received a text message on Sept. 2 that I could pick my son up at Memorial Hermann," said Lyon.

She said Ian was on life support when she arrived to the hospital.

"The first day they told me that the Ian that I knew was gone and there was nothing I could do to bring him back," Lyon said.

For the next three weeks Ian would be on life support. Lyon explained Ian had a court-appointed lawyer.

"They terminated the machine at 9 p.m. Sept. 20," Lyon testified. "He passed away the following day, shortly after 6 a.m."

The prosecution paints a picture of a jealous girlfriend, who dislikes her boyfriend's son to the point of abuse. It's a theory Wideman's father can't grasp.

"She loved Ian as much as she loved her own, her own kids," Keith Wideman said.

The defense insists Ian's death was an accident.

"The extent of my nephew's injuries was not from a fall, an accidental fall," Ian's uncle Eddie Lyon said. "He'd have to fall pretty hard or be shoved into something pretty hard with some strength."

"Like the defense said this was just an accident and Samantha has my support and my family's full support," Keith Wideman said.

Wideman was the primary babysitter for her 2-month-old, 4-year-old and Ian. Deaton, says "the four-year-old, who everyone said was a mean child, could have done this to Ian."

"He's a defense attorney," Eddie Lyon said. "He'll come up with whatever he can."

Wideman fights to remain innocent for a crime her father says she's not capabale of committing.

"What I want people to know about Sam is that she's a loving person and it's hurt her to have these charges against her," Keith Wideman said.

Ian's uncle says his void is as great today as it was two and a half years ago.

"I have a two-year-old son who's about the same age as Ian when this happened and it's hard to look at my son and not think about Ian," Eddie Lyon said.

Both families agree they hope this trial will bring out the truth.

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