Angelina County trial for couple accused of abusing baby gets under way

Angelina County trial for couple accused of abusing baby gets under way
Amber Lewis (Source: Angelina County Jail)
Amber Lewis (Source: Angelina County Jail)
Andrew Lewis (Source: Angelina County Jail)
Andrew Lewis (Source: Angelina County Jail)

ANGELINA COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - The trial of a couple accused of abusing their 2-month-old baby girl multiple times during the period from Jan. 26, 2014 to March 25, 2014 got under way Tuesday morning.

Andrew Ryan Lewis, 21 of Arlington, pleaded not guilty to the five counts against him. Lewis' wife, Amber Dnan, 20, pleaded not guilty to her three counts.

In his opening remarks, Clyde Herrington, the special prosecutor on the case, told the jury that the couple was responsible for abusing a 2-month-old girl. He that said according to witnesses, the child became distressed while Andrew was feeding her and had a seizure. Herrington said the EMS personnel observed injuries to the child when they arrived on scene.

Herrington said evidence will show the baby had problems and had to be airlifted to a Houston hospital. The special prosecutor said doctors at the hospital found that the child had multiple injuries that were all in different stages of healing.

"The doctors found they were not accidental," Herrington said. "If they were intentional who did it?"

Herrington said the child has been able to heal but will not be what she could have been.

Ryan Deaton, Amber Lewis' attorney, told the jury that Amber met Andrew in Arlington when she was 16, and soon after that, they moved to Lufkin. Deaton said that a wellness exam was performed on the child at one point, and the child was okay.

Deaton told the jury that one day there was some bruising, and she asked Andrew to take the child to the doctor, and Andrew did not do that and at that point is when there was more bruising that was not there when she last saw the child.

John Tunnel, Andrew Lewis' attorney, told the jury that what they have heard so far is not evidence. Tunnel said Andrew does not know what happened to the child or who would be responsible.

"I assume the state will do this by the process of elimination," Tunnel said. "I agree with Mr. Herrington that this is a search for truth, but I do not think we will know the truth in this case beyond a reasonable doubt."

Lufkin Police Officer Cody Jackson was the first witness to take the stand. Jackson said he was called out to Memorial Hospital about an injured child.

Jackson said he talked to Andrew and he was calm and was not sure about the bruises. Jackson documented multiple bruises and visible blood vessels. Jackson said the bruising on both sides of the head did cause concern. The LPD officer also said he did find it strange that Andrew was acting calm.

Lufkin firefighter and paramedic Ivan Tapia then told the jury about the injuries he saw. Tapia said when they arrived at the Lewis home, he saw Andrew holding his daughter in his arms.
"I noticed bruising," Tapia said. "There were yellow marks around the side and back of the head," Davis said… "By law, if I know the child is in harm, I cannot leave them. This is a child I could not have left."

Tapia told Herrington at the time of the incident, he was new to being a paramedic, and he had not seen yellow marks on a baby before. Tapia pointed out bruises on the front, back and side of the baby's head.

Tapia said that the child was focusing her vision and movements to the left.

"That indicated to me the signs of a head, brain injury," Tapia said.

Tapia said there were several tests they did with the pupils and facial moving. Tapia admitted that it is difficult to do with a baby.

Tapia said Andrew was not as concerned as he thought he should be.

Hudson Police Chief Jimmy Casper then took the stand as the third witness of the day. Casper said he and another officer went to the hospital on March 24, 2014 since the Lewis home is in Hudson. Casper said at the hospital, he and his officer went to a side room to talk to the two.

"[Andrew] told us a few days' prior he was at Taco Bell with [the baby], and she was fine," Casper said. "Later on, that day he said he noticed the bruises started to form by the eye. Later that next day, they noticed there was bruising on her left eye, and later that night, she became fussy, and he gave her Tylenol, so she could sleep."

Casper said Andrew told him they had tried to see the doctor but were unable to, so they were trying to go the next day.

Hudson Police Officer James Galloway was next to testify about his involvement with the Lewis case. Galloway went to Memorial Hospital on March 25, 2014 with Chief Casper to talk to Andrew and Amber.

Galloway said after visiting with the Lewis family, he then went to the home they were staying at to take photographs.

Child Protective Services employee Patrick Brice from Houston talked about his interviews with Andrew and Amber on the eleventh floor of Texas Children's Hospital.

"I separate them to see if their stories match up," Brice said.

Brice said Andrew told him that the baby was lying down, and she started shaking. A short time later, the child got stiff and screamed. Brice said a CATSCAN showed minimal bleeding.

Brice went through a list of injuries, and he said Andrew said he was unaware of the injuries that were listed.

Marshall Coffee, the former pastor of Central Church of Christ, talked to Herrington about his contact with the Lewis family.

April Wallace, a church friend of Andrew's father-in-law took the stand to answers questions.

Wallace said she noticed the child at church but nothing appeared wrong.
Wallace said after a meeting, she was holding the child, and she appeared lethargic. The baby girl also had some bruising and a blood blister on her eye. Wallace said the baby was in the care of her grandparents when she noticed it.

Wallace said she offered the grandparents to take her to the doctor if no one else could. She said she did this because of her in activity when she held her.

"It caused me enough concern as a mother to want to go check it out," Wallace said.

Wallace said she made the offer on Sunday, and the baby was taken to the hospital on a Tuesday.

Deaton asked Wallace how she knew the child was lethargic. Deaton argued that the baby was only 72 days old at the time, and at that age, most babies just eat and sleep. Wallace said based on her experience with her children, at 72 days, babies are not just sleeping and eating. Wallace said she was not active, moving, and sleeping.

Wallace told Deaton that she was unaware that the family had planned to take the child to the doctor on Monday.

Jimmy Mettlen talked to the jury about what he heard from Andrew while working with him.

Mettlen recalled a conversation where Andrew told him what he thought happened to the baby. He told the jury Andrew thought that their small dog had pushed the baby off the bed.

Mettlen also went to church with the couple. He said Amber would be at church most of the time, and Andrew was there when he did not have to work Sundays.

Cindy Odom, director of Angel Keepers Day Care at the Lewis' church, talked to Herrington about feeling uneasy with taking in the child.

Odom said she was approached about taking care of her after she was taken from the Lewises.

"By the time I got her, she didn't have the bruises, but she was still having seizures," Odom said. "I could tell she was hurting. Every time I tried to pick her up, she would scream. She seemed comfortable wrapped up in her car seat."

Odom said the child improved over the three weeks she stayed with her.

"The first week it was tough," Odom said. "She would wake up screaming. Most newborns do but this was a different type of scream. There was no doubt she was in pain."

Chere Crocker, the office manager for Angelina Pediatrics, said that the records at the office do not show a scheduled appointment or a canceled appointment.

Crocker stated to Deaton that the child's parents did make three appointments for wellness checks leading up to the incident at the hospital. The last came in early March. Crocker said the doctor looks at everything.

Crocker said based on the office records, there was nothing that seemed out of the ordinary.

Crocker said in January 2014, Amber made an appointment to come in and get help with nursing.

In the records, Deaton also pointed out that Amber told the doctor that sometimes she can hear a leg popping.

"Does that sound like someone who is not trying to get medical help for her daughter," Deaton asked.

Crocker said there were four appointments scheduled and three no shows.

Posados manager Craig Minkner then talked about his daughter Amber. He said the family let her move away at one point, and then she moved back when she was pregnant and wanted to marry Andrew. Minkner said he let them move back in, so they could get on their feet. He said each of them did work. Minkner said they would keep the child in their room a lot.

"They tried to keep to themselves," Minkner said. "They wanted to be their own family unit."

Minkner said the Sunday before the child was taken to the hospital is the first time he noticed any bruises.

"We asked them, and I know Andy's parents were in town, and they discussed it as well," Minkner said. "We assumed there was something wrong because babies do not bruise that easily."

Minkner said the baby did not get taken to the doctor because he had an appointment with his counselor and decided not to take the baby.

Minkner said the child was always more fussy when Andrew held her, and he would hold her at a distance. He added the family did have dogs in the house.

Minkner said that he was asleep when Andrew came to his room with the child having a seizure.

"I thought she was gone," Minkner said. "She felt dead after she shook, then she came back."

Minkner said he felt that they had the baby swaddled too tight, but she appeared comfortable.

"I want to say I first saw the bruises that weekend," Minkner said. "It was that Friday or Saturday that I noticed it right above her eye. I noticed one other one, but I can't remember where. It was later. I just know it was that weekend."

Minkner told Deaton that if there was something as severe as a broken femur or clavicle he would have noticed it. Deaton asked if there was anything Minkner would have seen in January 2014 that would have warranted his daughter getting indicted for not getting medical attention to his grandchild.

"No," Minkner said.

Minkner said he did not think of abuse when he saw the bruise.

"I did not see any signs of abuse in my house," Minkner said. "I know my daughter is very gentle. I saw no signs in my house."

Minkner said he was upset when he discovered the child was not taken to the doctor as planned.

Minkner told Tunnell that it was noticeable that the child was better with Amber than Andrew with how she acted.

Samantha Skinner with CPS told the jury that during supervised visits when Amber would hold the child, she was okay, but when being passed to the father, she would stiffen up.

"We knew something was not right here," Skinner said. 
Skinner told Tunnel she did not have any video of the meeting because over time the video had been erased. Skinner told Tunnel that the interaction between the child and then Lewis Parents lasted around 15 minutes.

CPS Investigator Nicole Yarborough said she observed the baby girl tense up and cry whenever the parents would enter the room. Yarborough said it got to the point that she felt uncomfortable so she asked Skinner to join her in the room.

Yarborough said at one point, the two voluntarily relinquished their parental rights. Yarborough said there was never discussion on no charges being presented if they relinquished their rights.

Janae Wojasinski, a counselor in Lufkin, talked of how she met with both Andrew and Amber several times over six months about the injuries to the baby. Wojasinski said both parents denied having any involvement in the abuse that happened, and at one point Andrew said it could have possibly been Amber's mother that did it.

Wojasinski told Tunnel that Andrew never blamed his wife.

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