Child's mother testifies at Jasper trial for man accused in baby death

Child's mother testifies at Jasper trial for man accused in baby death
Justin Havard (Jasper County Jail)

JASPER, TX (KTRE) - Day two of the Jasper County murder trial for Justin Havard, who is accused of killing a three-month-old baby left in his care in November of 2013, began with expert testimony from officers who were first on the scene the day they received a 911 call that a baby wasn't breathing.

Havard was arrested on a felony injury to a child charge in November of 2013. Jasper Police Chief Robert MacDonald said on Friday, Nov. 8, Justin Dewayne Havard, of Newton, called 911 and told the dispatcher that 4-month-old Ryland was choking. Havard had babysitting his girlfriend's two children, Ryland and a 4-year-old girl.

When Jasper PD officers questioned Havard at the hospital, his story allegedly didn't match the child's injuries, MacDonald said.

A medical examination showed the child had suffered blunt force trauma to the head.

A Jasper police officer took the stand and said he responded to an apartment complex for an "unresponsive human" call.

"When I arrived, there were medical professionals already on scene, and upon entering the home I observed the baby was motionless and turning purple," the officer said.

The officer said Havard appeared calm and was able to explain what happened leading up to the time he called 911. The jury was then shown dash cam video taken from the time the officer received the call, and included everything leading up to the time he arrived at the hospital approximately 20 minutes after the infant.

Havard can be heard on the video telling officers he was watching a movie with the other child present when he went to check on the infant in the other room who he left with a bottle propped on a blanket. He can be heard through the officer's microphone explaining what happened.

"He just started choking. He spit up a lot of formula. I don't know what happened," Havard said. "Usually he spits up and is good, but after I started performing CPR, he just kept spitting up real good."

The officer stayed at the apartment complex approximately 20 minutes after the infant was transported to the hospital. Havard explained he was not the biological father of the infant, and the 4-year-old present but was babysitting for their mother. He identified himself as the only father they knew.

District Attorney, Steve Hollis asked him to describe Havard's demeaner to which he answered he was calm.

The second witness to take the stand was James Hopson, who is now a sergeant for the sheriff's office but on November 8, 2013 was an officer with the Jasper Police Department, and he explained he performed CPR on the infant from the apartment to the hospital.

"I observed bruising on the side of the infant's face, and when I spoke to the mother of the child, she informed me that this was a side effect of Advil medicine the baby was taking," Hopson said.

In the second dash cam video shown from this officer's perspective, the child can be observed being carried to the ambulance where the doors remain open for several minutes with Havard standing outside until it leaves for the hospital.

Both the state and defense passed the witness. The defense, representing Havard Ryan Gertz did not cross-examine either law enforcement officer.

The next witness to take the stand was the infant's doctor prior to his death. Hollis repeated medical records that showed the child saw him several times, and they showed he was diagnosed with jaundice, which got better the closer to the time he died. Hollis asked why the baby would have been examined so many times, and the doctor explained it was standard procedure.

"Any child on Medicade is required to have checkups at two months, four months, six months, and so on," the doctor said. "He did fine during those reports. There were no problems, and he was actually lifting his head well."

Cross-examination by the defense began with asking the doctor how many times he has performed CPR on a child to which he answered he had few times. He was shown a photograph of the child following his death and asked if the bruising resembled CPR being given.

"Marks at mid the mid-back which would be consistent, but looking at those right there; that is not CPR. That's too low," the doctor said.

Gertz asked if they would be consistent with someone being given instructions on how to perform CPR over the phone with very little experience to which the doctor noted it was possible that this would happen.

Samantha McDaniel, the mother of the infant killed took the stand and explained how she knew Havard and how long they were together before her child died. She said there was a period after they started dating when he moved away, and they had little contact but soon got back together.

She was working at a local child day-care center in Jasper at the time child died and said that in addition to leaving the child in care of her mother she also left her kids with Havard.

"I don't remember him actually moving in, but I had to provide for my children somehow, so I went to work," McDaniel said. "The night before November 8th, he was sick and throwing up, but that wasn't unusual."

She explained that he was having trouble with his formula; the doctor advised that he was either being overfed or the formula was upsetting his stomach. When asked about recalling the infant having marks on him before he died, she said she didn't remember exactly.

"I don't recall marks, except for one on his ear down the side of his face and Justin said that he fell on his pocket knife when he was playing," McDaniel said. 
When she was asked about an interview given where she explained seeing bruising on the infant's arms and told detectives it was from holding him, she said she didn't remember giving that statement.

She said three days after the death, she told detectives she did not believe Havard had done anything to the baby but said that Havard admitted he had dropped the infant accidentally prior to his death.

"I remember one time seeing a cut on the side of his face going down towards his ear, and Justin told me he was playing with him and he accidentally fell on his pocket knife," McDaniel said.

After the pocket knife incident, McDaniel told detectives she advised Havard he was being too rough with the baby.  McDaniel did not recall much of what occurred the time of the baby's death and was excused. There was no cross examination from the defense.

Georgia McDaniel, the grandmother of the victim took the stand following her daughter and was asked where she was living mid-2013. She said she was living with her sister in Jasper.

"The day we came home from the hospital with Rylan, Justin told me I needed to move out," Georgia said.

She was asked if she thought it was a good idea that Havard became a father figure to her grandchildren, and she said did not. The defense objected the question citing relevance, but the judge overruled this objection and three more following the questioning of McDaniel.

"Samantha was living with me until I moved out in October, and Justin was not allowed at my house," McDaniel said. "I would call every single day wanting to see my grandbabies, but I was always told no."

Testimony ended with Hollis asking McDaniel if the last time she saw her grandchild was at the hospital when he died. She began to be visibly upset and said that was correct.

Gary Foster, with the Jasper Police Department took the stand and testified he was a detective in November of 2013 when they responded to a medical call. When he arrived, he stated Havard showed the detective where the baby had been when he found him unresponsive. Photographs were taken of the crime scene.

"We photographed anything and everything to air on the side of caution, we were initially responding to a medical emergency, so we did not know if there was any significance in the bedroom where the baby was found," Foster said.

After photographing Rayland's room, he went to the hospital where he was debriefed that the child was unresponsive and barely breathing. Foster said he observed bruising and cuts on the face, and the doctors informed him there was nothing blocking Rayland's chest cavity to prevent him from breathing.

"After seeing the CT scan and X-rays, I was concerned that this was a head trauma case," Foster said. "It was not clear a crime had been committed, but we investigated and interviewed Havard about what happened."

This is when Havard was placed under arrest, interviewed and then released. Following Havard being told he was free to go, a CPS worker called after observing Ryland's injuries and advised law enforcement.

"All they do is interview children and are trained in those specific situations. This is where Ryland's sister was interviewed but we did not determine anything from that interview," Foster said.

Foster confirmed that during the first interview, Havard said he called 911 after he observed Ryland wasn't breathing, but during his second interview he told a very different story. Hollis read a transcript to the jury and detective about what Havard said during the second interview.

"Did he then admit that he dropped Ryland five feet onto the bedroom floor when he was trying to adjust the crib, and when Ryland started crying, he shook him and said, 'Stop crying, stop crying, stop crying?'" Hollis asked.

The detective confirmed that Havard said this during the second interview. Hollis continued reading the transcript from the second interview Havard gave.
"Did he tell you he killed Ryland?  Did he tell you he knows he killed Ryland?" Hollis asked.

Foster confirmed he did tell him that.

"After you asked him why he didn't tell the detectives during the first interview, he said that he didn't want the mother to know he had messed up and hurt Ryland," Hollis said.

Hollis then approached the question that the interrogation was done improperly to force 
In cross-examination, the defense asked Foster why he did not obtain an arrest warrant before interrogating him the second time, and he said he did not know if the information he had was enough to arrest him.

"You had already made up your mind about what you thought, don't you think?" Gertz said. "I want to understand the process here. Since you had not had your mind made up as you said before then, why were the first words you said during the second interrogation, 'You've got two options. This can be worked as a homicide or an accident, and I don't want to hear anything else.'"

Gertz said Havard stuck with his original story for the beginning of the second interview, and quoted something Foster said during the interview.
"'When I show this s--- to a jury, they aren't going to like it,'" Foster said in the interview. "'When your ass sits in a jail for the next 20-40 years your ass isn't going to like it.'"

"So he told you several different stories?" Gertz asked later.
Gertz than took a book sitting on the state's table, asked if he could use it, and then demonstrated what Foster did with a baby that was in the interrogation room during this interview and slammed the book down mimicking what he accused Havard of doing to Ryland.

Gertz asked Foster if he remembered threatening him with the death penalty, and Foster said he did not threaten, but stated if this was done intentionally he would face the death penalty.

"Is it something you learned in interrogation school to call someone 'son?'" Gertz asked, and Foster answered it was just a term he uses.

"Do you think you kept your cool during this interview, and were nice, calm, and cool?" Gertz asked.

Gertz had no other questions, and the state rested, but after the jury left the room, the defense noted that the state did not prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is an impact injury. Therefore, he said, there is no reason for this case to continue. His request to redirect the verdict was denied.
Both the state and the defense had rested by the end of Wednesday's testimony.

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