Prosecutor plays tapes of parents' interviews with police in death of 2-month-old

Prosecutor plays tapes of parents' interviews with police in death of 2-month-old
Dequisha Jackson (Source: Angelina County Jail)
Dequisha Jackson (Source: Angelina County Jail)
Isaiah Tolliver (Source: Angelina County Jail)
Isaiah Tolliver (Source: Angelina County Jail)

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - The trail continued Tuesday for a couple accused in the death of their two-month-old son.

Dequisha Jackson, 19, and Isaiah Tolliver, 20, are charged with first-degree murder.

Both were arrested in October 2013 after Imauri Jackson died at their home in the 1500 block of Williams Street. The baby was determined to be extremely malnourished and police say the parents did not feel the need to seek medical treatment for him.

Dr. Melisa Handley, a pediatric physician with the Children's Clinic in Lufkin was still on the stand this morning and was being cross-examined by defense counsel.

Tolliver's attorney, Jerry Whiteker, asked her if there were any physical signs of abuse or burns and Handley said she didn't see anything like that. Whiteker also asked her about whether or not baby Imauri was tested for any genetic abnormalities or birth defects and she said not.

Handley said rigor mortis would set in sooner in infants in general because of their size and especially with lack of body fat.

Handley said that she believed the child died hours before he arrived at the hospital rather than minutes before. Whiteker asked the doctor about whether or not the amount of formula found in the house would last a week in advance for a 2-month-old infant and she confirmed that it would be sufficient.

"If you just moved here and you have an infant I would think you would actively be seeking care," Handley said.

Both defense attorneys asked Handley what the cash payment would be for someone who did not have insurance to pay for an appointment for their child.

Jackson's defense attorney, John Tatum, asked Handley if she testified if the baby was stiff. Handley said yes. She also said the nurse who evaluated the baby and the EMT also made comments about the baby being stiff.

Tatum asked Handley about the use of rice cereal to supplement formula. Handley said that sometimes rice cereal would be added to formula to help a baby who was spitting up a lot and couldn't maintain weight. She also said the cereal doesn't have as many calories or nutrients as the formula does and if a baby fills up on cereal they wouldn't be getting the nutrients they needed to grow.

Assistant District Attorney Katrina Carswell asked her to more specifically talk about the time of death. Handley said the time of death doesn't actually mean that's the moment the child took his last breath but that's the time medical professionals stopped giving life sustaining care.

Carswell brought the pictures of Imauri Jackson up again. The photo is of the child's back and shows what the doctor calls "blanching" which indicates where everything stopped at the time of death so all the places where the body is white, the body was touching a surface there would not be blood there.

Handley said blanching is "not present in an infant that has just passed" She said with her knowledge of blanching, that sets in 8-12 hours after death not minutes, although that's the textbook time for an adult, not necessarily an infant.

Carswell asked Handley if it would be possible for a person with an infant who just moved to the area to seek treatment at the emergency room and she said yes, especially if an infant was not gaining weight.

Handley also said the bill for her services in the emergency room when the child was brought in on the day he died was paid for by Medicaid and Carswell said that indicates that at least one of the parents had to be qualified for Medicaid and Handley said yes, since the bill was paid for.

When Carswell asked Handley if having purchased the formula meant that the mother used the formula to feed the baby she said "no, not necessarily." Jackson could be seen rolling her eyes and shaking her head at the question.

Then the prosecution called Auturo Fernandez, who works at Pilgrim's Pride and is the custodian of records. He confirmed Tolliver was employed there from 10/3/13 - 10/15/13. Fernandez said he made $8.75 per hour. He also said insurance was available to employees after 90 days of employment.

Dr. Candace Schoppe, a forensic pathologist with the Dallas County Medical Examiner's Office is the next to testify for the state. She conducted the autopsy of Imauri Jackson at the request of Justice of the Peace Billy Ball.

"When I opened the body back I observed a very small, black, male infant," Schoppe said. "He had no external wounds other than the extreme emaciation." "The fontanel [the soft spot on the top of the baby's head] was sunken and depressed," Schoppe said. She said that's a basic sign of dehydration. "There was no evidence he had any kind of congenital abnormality, no evidence of diseases or genetic disorders."

"There was no specific disease process present in any of the organs," Schoppe said.

"Everything I saw was a consequence of dehydration and malnutrition," Schoppe said.

Schoppe said there was no fat tissue present and that was something she has never seen in a normal infant.

There was about 5cc of dark green fluid that looked like bile. "He may have consumed some food but there was no curdled milk in his stomach," Schoppe said.

"He had thymic atrophy [a gland in the neck.] In this case his was tiny and much smaller than it should be in an infant that age. It was abnormal and one of the main reasons, especially in this case is malnutrition," Schoppe said.

Schoppe said that the intestines are one of the main things they look for in children who are malnourish to make sure there is nothing obstructing them from absorbing nutrition.

She said the toxicology report was clean. No drugs or poisons.

"It is my findings that he died of malnutrition and dehydration," Schoppe said then the state passed the witness.

Schoppe said determining the time of death is not an exact science. She said she cannot determine the exact minute and second of death.

She said based on what she saw the baby had been dead for several hours between three to eight hours.

She told the defense she could not say for sure if he had recently been fed or not. She said all she can say is there was a small amount of fluid in the stomach. Schoppe also said she received a soiled diaper to examine but said that just because there was stool doesn't mean there was food in the stool.

Sgt. Nick Malone with the Lufkin Police Department testified after Dr. Schoppe. Malone went to the hospital to view the body of Imauri Jackson. He said he spoke with the parents at the hospital. Malone said "I'd never seen anything like it. I don't know how to describe it. He was very underweight."

He described Jackson as very withdrawn and sad at the hospital but she did talk with him.

When Malone was asked if he considered foul play after seeing Imauri Jackson, "When you see a child in that condition, as a detective, you at least need to cover your bases," Malone said.

"Both parents had significantly less grief than parents in other children's deaths I've seen," Malone said.

Malone said the parents told police Imauri died just about the time the 911 call went out, while Linda Bankhead described the body as stiff and kind of cold during interviews with police.

Malone said the discharge papers the defendants received from the hospital after the birth advised them to take the baby to see a pediatrician three days later. Malone said the parents didn't do as the discharge papers said. He said he found no evidence that Tolliver or Jackson took the child to see a doctor or see an emergency childcare provider.

Carswell enters a recording of the interview between Sgt. Malone and Jackson conducted at the hospital. The audio recording is played for the jury.

Jackson is sniffling and crying in the recording.

"I tried feeding him. He wouldn't take it. I tried giving him his pacifier and he wouldn't take it. He acted like he wanted to cry but he couldn't," Jackson said in the recording to Malone about the day Imauri died.

"This morning he wouldn't take the bottle, and he was making sounds like he wanted to cry," Jackson said in the recorded interview. She said earlier that morning, she had fed him, and he ate two ounces. She described her son as normal around 9 a.m. on the day he died.

Jackson said in the interview her son saw the doctor two times since he had been out of the hospital. She said she was feeding the baby three times a day. She said sometimes he wouldn't take the bottle, so she would wait until he woke up crying again to eat.

Carswell then played a videotaped interview between Sgt. Nick Malone and Jackson that was recorded at the police station. Jackson said she saw his eyes blink one last time, and his heart stopped beating and that happened while Tolliver was on the phone with 911.

Then Jackson explained a situation where her other child, a one-year-old male, had been in CPS custody and was placed with the child's father in Austin.

In the taped interview, she said her son Imauri saw a doctor at two weeks and four weeks in Baytown. Jackson said she noticed when she laid him down you could see all his ribs and was worried that he looked premature. Then she said told Malone she was feeding the baby a bottle and a half per day.

She told Malone sometimes he did not want to eat. She said he didn't eat very well.

Malone said something that he was worried about was that he could tell that when he saw the baby at the hospital it had been longer than just when they called the police that he had died, perhaps several hours before.

Malone told Jackson that he knew she wasn't telling the truth and asked her to tell him when she first knew he quit breathing. Jackson said the baby was making some sort of noise that sounded like he wanted to cry all through the night.

Then Carswell played the videotaped interview between him and Tolliver. Tolliver said Imauri was his first child, and he wasn't even at the hospital when the baby was born.

He told Malone it was about 15 minutes before they called 911 after they realized the baby wasn't breathing around 10 a.m. the morning he died. Tolliver told the detective that the doctor hadn't been to the doctor since he was born. Tolliver described Imauri as someone who ate a lot, even calling him greedy, and said he ate all the time.

Tolliver told Malone the baby was still breathing when he saw him right before he died. He said the baby cried a little bit before he stopped breathing. Tolliver told Malone that he was making it seem like they weren't taking care of their baby. Malone told him that he knew it was longer than 15 minutes since the baby stopped breathing.

Tolliver asked Malone if he was trying to say that they killed their own baby and Malone said no.

The states final witness is Misty Davis. She said he had a conversation with Jackson about her child's death in jail. She said Jackson said there was a cousin of hers that lived there that took care of the baby. Davis said Jackson told her she heard a gasping sound from the baby and "his limbs were just falling, but I thought he was okay."

Davis said she was aggravated when Jackson told her that she would stay up all night, so she could sleep with Isaiah since he worked all night. She said Jackson told her the cousin would take care of the baby during the day and that when he would cry, she would just give him a pacifier. Davis said Jackson told her the baby hadn't been to the doctor.

She said she was aggravated by the feeding schedule Jackson described to her because it wasn't right. It wasn't enough.

Davis said she told law enforcement about the conversation instead of keeping it to herself because she felt it was wrong. She also told the jury said it seemed like she only cared about Tolliver.

"She's a good person, but I just don't agree with what she did," Davis said.

Then the state rested their case.?

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