Capital murder trial for Center woman accused of beating baby to death begins

Shaketiha Cartwright (Source: Center Police Department)
Shaketiha Cartwright (Source: Center Police Department)
Keilly Hoyt
Keilly Hoyt

CENTER, TX (KTRE) - During the first day of the capital murder trial for a Center woman accused of beating her 5-month-old baby girl to death in January 2013, the prosecutor presented information from the arrest affidavit which stated the child's body was covered with bruises, and she had multiple broken bones.

Shakeitha Cartwright, 30, appeared in Judge Charles Mitchell's 273 Judicial District Court Monday morning. Officers with the Center Police Department arrested Cartwright on Jan. 16, 2013.

According to the affidavit, Center police arrived at the home, located on the 1200 block of Shelbyville Street, and saw Cartwright on the front porch holding 5-month-old Keilly Hoyt. EMS took Keilly to the Center hospital while police spoke to Cartwright.

The affidavit continues stating that Cartwright said she woke up with Keilly at 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. She said she went to check on Keilly at 9:20 a.m., and saw her lying on her stomach in the bassinet.

EMS then called police and said the child had bruising which looked suspicious. An officer arrived at the hospital and saw the baby had a bruised left eye, multiple small puncture marks consistent with bite marks, signs of dehydration, and bruises all over her body.

The officer reported seeing a large bruised area on the back of the child in the buttock area and wounds on both sides of Keilly's buttocks, as well as bruises on the soles of her feet.

An X-ray showed Keilly had multiple broken bones, including both femurs, both forearms, both shoulders, and her jaw.

At the home, detectives searched the bedroom and found that the bassinet Keilly had been sleeping in appeared to have a vomit stain. The padding had some type of stain on it and was not covered by a fitted sheet. A detective found a fitted sheet in a pile of dirty clothes and saw a red stain on it which matched the stain on the padding. The detective also found several blankets and clothing which appeared to have blood stains.

Detectives later interviewed Cartwright, who admitted to losing her temper and picking up Keilly and shaking her, according to the affidavit. She also said she had picked Keilly up and forcibly threw her into the child safety seat in the living room, according to the affidavit. She also said she did not know how Keilly suffered the broken arms and legs. She did admit to biting Keilly on the feet, hitting her on the arms, slapping her in the mouth, and squeezing her shoulders together, according to the affidavit.

Officials removed three other children living in Cartwright's home. CPS spokesperson Sherri Pulliam said an 11-year-old girl, 9-year-old girl, and an 18-month-old boy also lived in the home on the 1200 block of Shelbyville Street. Pulliam said there has been no history of abuse reported to CPS before the incident with Keilly.

Shelby Co. District Attorney Ken Florence opted out of making an opening statement and moved right to the witnesses.

The first witness was the dispatcher that answered the 911 call from the incident, Karren Shields. Florence asked her about Cartwright's demeanor during the initial 911 call.

"She was calm and quiet," Shields said.

The 911 dispatcher recalled the words of, "the child not breathing" being said during the call.

Florence then played the 911 call for the jury.

Cartwright appeared to be calm on the 911 call. Cartwright told responders that she tried to administer CPR. but it did not work.

Defense Attorney Rudy Velasquez asked Shields if she knew Cartwright before the incident. In addition, he asked the 911 dispatcher why she wrote that she had no emotion.

"In my mind, you can hear her emotion when she called, right? Velasquez asked.

"I have heard more emotional calls come in," the dispatcher said.

Velasquez said that Cartwright did what she was supposed to do and call 911 and then asked Shields why she said she had no emotion.

"It was my opinion," Shields said

The next witness called was Veronica Cartwright, a dispatcher with ACE EMS. Veronica Cartwright and Shakeitha are cousins.

Florence asked Veronica Cartwright how Shakeitha sounded on the phone.

"She sounded just like it was a matter of fact that her baby was dead," Veronica said.

Velasquez asked Veronica when she last spoke to Shakeitha; Veronica answered saying that the last time she spoke to her was on the 911 call.

Veronica told Velasquez that she did not know her cousin that well because of an age difference.

"She grew up with my children," Veronica said.

Velasquez then asked several questions and made statements claiming the witness could not talk about the emotion of Cartwright since she did not know her well.

Sean Cooper, a paramedic with ACE EMS at the time of the incident, took the stand next. The paramedic said it took him only three minutes to get to the house.

Florence asked Cooper to recall what happened on Jan.13, 2013.

"We got there and she gave me and my partner a blanket and said, 'Here take it. It is not breathing,'" Cooper said. "I saw the baby in the blanket and it had obvious injuries. The baby's eye was completely swollen shut. I asked what happened and [Cartwright] said that another child hit the baby in the eye with a toy."

Cooper went on to say that Cartwright was cold and showed no emotion. Cooper said it was weird because when they arrive on scene and put a child in an ambulance, the parents usually have to be pried away from the vehicle, but Cartwright was nowhere to be found.

Cooper also said that when they got to the hospital they tried to open the baby's mouth to insert a breathing tube, but could not because the jaw was so injured that it could not be opened.

Velasquez asked Cooper if it was possible if Cartwright was not in the area of the ambulance because she might have had to go inside and check on another child.

Cooper said it was possible and then tried to continue with another statement before Velasquez cut him off.

Cooper told Velasquez that he was at the hospital for about an hour and admitted that he did not know Cartwright could not drive.

Florence called another of the responding ACE EMS paramedics to the stand as well.

"We were told to first go to the church, Steve Dudley said. "I saw [Cartwright] flagging us down, so I had to back up to the correct place. I got out of the truck and the lady came up to me and said, 'Here take her, she is not breathing.' I looked down and thought, 'This is not good.' The baby looked stiff and was bruised and blue."

Florence asked Dudley about Cartwright's demeanor.

"There was nothing in her voice to make any assumptions," Dudley said.

Velasquez then asked Dudley how far down he drove after he saw Cartwright waving them down.

"We went about 50 feet," Dudley said. She was waving us in to the street. She walked across the yard into the house and brought out something in the blanket," Dudley said.

Dudley continued and said his reaction wasn't good.

After a short break, Sgt. Steve Burkehalter with Center Police took the stand.

"When I got there, me and Officer Blackwell got out of the vehicle. We say the paramedics who told us they had a code, so we blocked the traffic so they could get to the hospital," Burkehalter said. "We stayed on scene. Our concern was that the dispatcher said that the mother showed no emotion during the call. I went over to the mother. I wanted to see what her condition was."

Burkehalter continued by saying that she was calm and that she showed no concern about going to the hospital.

"I remember her on the phone with someone saying, 'the police are at my house and they took my baby," Burkehalter said.  "I asked her to get off of the phone so I could talk to her. She invited me in the home to talk to her. She showed no signs of wanting to go to the hospital."

Burkehalter said that Cartwright showed him the baby's room and where she was sleeping. In addition, the Center Police officer recalled seeing a blood stain where the baby's head would have been.

Burkehalter told Florence that she tried to give CPR and that she called Keilly's father before she called 911.

He also recalled when Cartwright told him why she was not crying.

"'I have no more tears to cry, Cartwright told me. 'I cried them all last night,'" Burkehalter said.

Burkehalter said that he helped gather evidence on scene and that the Shelby Co. Sheriff's office also had a deputy on scene.

Velasquez asked Burkehalter what he did before he talked to Cartwright.

"I was helping block traffic," Burkehalter said. "I then went and talked to Cartwright. When the baby's father came into the room, he showed concern."

Velasquez asked Burkehalter if he was assuming by his own experiences the attitude of Cartwright. Velasquez said that she could have been upset but not showing it.

"That is possible," Burkehalter said."I have seen shock before though."

Burkehalter told Velasquez that he never saw Keilly in Cartwright's home.

Velasquez asked Burkehalter what he and Cartwright talked about in the room.

"She told me how she laid the baby on its stomach," Burkehalter said.

Valesquez argued this statement saying that Cartwright never laid the baby on its stomach. Burkehalter then countered by saying, 'That's not what she told me."

The next witness called to the stand was officer James Blackwell of the Center Police Department.

"When I arrived on scene, I saw an ambulance with a child, I blocked traffic and they headed off," Blackwell said. "I approached the porch, and Burkehalter told me that this was the mother of the child. I stepped away because I received a call from [EMS] that paramedics found severe bruising on the child, so I left and went to the hospital.

Blackwell then said that he went and talked to the parents.

"I talked to them hoping to get the parents to decide to go to the hospital," Blackwell said. "I did not get the response that I thought I would have gotten. They were like, 'Well I guess we should go.' They did not seem like they were in a hurry to go."

Blackwell then recalled to Florence when he got to the hospital.

"Keep in mind, I have already been told the baby was dead," Blackwell said. "I checked to see how long the baby was dead. I did a physical inspection on the child. There were several things that caused alarm. There were tiny marks on the finger tips, like rodent bites. The child had signs of dehydration."

Florence asked if he checked more than the front of the baby.

"Yes I did," Blackwell said. "I checked the back also. One of the other injuries I saw was a black eye."

Florence asked for more detailed injuries but Blackwell could not list all of them.

"There were so many injuries, Blackwell said. "I was overwhelmed. I do remember the injury on the buttocks. Anyone who has seen a buttocks, knows it is supposed to be round, but there was a flat spot. There were also skin abrasions."

Florence continued with the injuries and asked about the arms.

"One of the arms did look abnormal compared to the other arm," Blackwell said.

Blackwell continued and said that he had the chance to talk to the doctor overseeing this case.

"[The doctor] seemed to be shocked," Blackwell said. "He sat over in the corner, he had his head in his hands. He seemed upset. I asked him for the record if this could be considered as a homicide. He said, 'without a doubt."

Blackwell said that he collected clothing from the child and everything the child had for evidence.

Blackwell then recalled Cartwright arriving at the hospital.

"She was unusually calm," Blackwell said. "To my knowledge, she never asked to see the baby."

Velasquez asked Blackwell if he told Cartwright that her baby was dead.

"No I did not," Blackwell said.

Velasquez asked if it is possible for Cartwright to be in shock.

"She displayed no signs of shock," Blackwell said.

Blackwell continued by saying if Cartwright was in shock there would be some form of reaction and that he has never seen anyone in shock act the way Cartwright did.

"She did not appear to be in shock at any point," Blackwell said.

Velasquez asked if Blackwell had proof that Cartwright caused the injuries.

"I have no proof of that," Blackwell said. "I never testified to that."

The next witness to take the stand and answer questions was John Welch, a detective for the Center Police Department.

Welch was presented with a phone log from Florence that had calls from Cartwright to other people.

Welch made several calls to a specific person between 7 to 8 a.m. Welch said she called the baby's father around 9:23 a.m. and another person, before calling 9-1-1 at 9:33 a.m. After making several more calls, Cartwright called her dad at 9:55 a.m.

After a lunch recess, Florence asks for Dr. Joseph Bianco to be questioned.  Dr, Bianco was on call in the emergency room when Keily entered.

"From what I remember, the patient was discovered by her mother and father as not breathing," Bianco said. " They then called 911 and she was taken to the emergency room."

Florence then asked Dr, Bianco to describe the injuries.

"Looking over the body, the injuries we saw would be hard to resuscitate," Bianco said. "It wasn't until I saw the x-rays that I could verify the bone fractures."

Florence then showed Bianco multiple x-rays of the infant. In one of the x-rays, Bianco was able to point out 6 fractures; one in each femur, one in each leg, and then bones in the arm.

Bianco agrees with Florence  that it is a fair statement that both arms and legs had multiple broken bones. Bianco continued by saying he is not sure about any head fracture since he was only concerned about resuscitation.

Bianco said that based on the baby's temperature of around 88 degrees that the baby had been dead for several hours.

Bianco also said that the baby appeared to be malnourished.

"Based on my grandson's weight that was around that age, this baby wasn't even close to that," Bianco said."

Flourence entered evidence that records from The Shelby County Regional Medical Center said that Keily enter the hospital at 5 pounds, 11 ounces.

"I think that baby went through a tremendous amount of time," Bianco said. "It was over time. It was not just one time. Broken bones of newborns hurt. That was over seven months of torture. I had to drive over 200 miles home, thinking about that."

Bianco said that it is hard to break bones of a newborn because the bones will "give" and they are more flexible. Bianco also said that he wanted to say the Cartwrights' child had a black eye but he could not remember for sure.

Velasquez then asks Bianco if the broken bones caused the death of Keily.

"No sir, Bianco said. "{the baby died] because the heart stopped beating.

Velasquez asked Bianco if he knew that the child was premature, to which Bianco said he was not notified of that.

The next witness called was officer Jeremy Konderla with the Center Police department.

Konderla said he was asked to come and help watch Cartwright and Ellis while police were investigating the scene.

Floernce asked Konderla if Cartwright ever asked about the child.

"None," Konderla said. "Mr. Hoyt did ask me several times about how the baby was doing, but not Ms, Cartwright."

Konderla said that Cartwright cried a little bit but did not seem upset when she found out the baby died.

"I was shocked at the lack of the emotion by Ms. Cartwright," Konderla said. "The father did cry a little more."

Velasquez asked Konderla if he remembered talking to Cartwright. Konderla said he did not remember talking to her, he just remembered observing her. Velasquez asked that even though Cartwright cried, why would he continue to say Cartwright showed no remorse.

"In my report, I said I have seen people show more emotion over the death of a pet, then she did at that moment," Konderla said.

Center police detective Nicole Faulkner took the stand and testified about evidence that was gathered at the scene.

Faulkner and the jury were shown several photographs. The first was of Keily while she was alive. The second picture was of Keily's bassinet.

Faulkner said she was unsure of what the stain might be that is located in it.

Another picture was of a baby bathtub that was across the room from where the baby slept.

"I noticed there was no fitted sheet on the bassinet and I thought that was strange, so I started looking for areas where clothes might be, and that's when I found it in a bag in the bathtub," Faulkner said.

Faulkner said that both the bassinet and the sheet had  a red stain on it as well as a sock from the infant.

Faulkner said as she continued to investigate the home, she found a refrigerator that did not appear to be stocked enough to take care of Cartwright and her four children.

Faulkner would go on to describe photographs from the hospital.

Faulkner said she could see blood on cuts on one foot and on the other she could see signs of dehydration.

Faulkner said that when she saw Cartwright, she told her to go ahead and go to the hospital and she would catch up with her. Faulkner continued by saying that she found it weird that Cartwright would leave the car seat at home instead of taking it with her, just in case the baby would be able to come home.

Faulkner said after the baby died, the baby was transported to SWIFS, The Southwest Institute for Forensic Sciences.

Faulkner then recalled that the father was upset when she told the parents that the baby died.

"Ellis was upset," Faulkner said. " He wanted to know what happened. [Cartwright] just sat there and acted like she wasn't surprised.

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