Grandparents testify in Angelina County baby abuse trial

Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - During the second day of testimony in the trial of an East Texas couple accused of abusing their two month old child, a doctor claimed the child had multiple broken bones over a period of time and had brain damage.

Andrew Ryan Lewis, 21 of Arlington, is charged with five counts of injury to a child and his wife, Amber Lewis, 20 of Hudson, is charged with three counts of the same charge. The couple accused of abusing their 2-month-old baby girl multiple times during the period from Jan. 26, 2014 to March 25, 2014, began Tuesday morning.

Baylor College of Medicine Associate Professor Marcella Donaruma was working as a consultant at Texas Children's hospital when the Lewis' child was flown to Houston. Donaruma saw the child when she was 78 days old.

"Her youngest known injury was to her collarbone with some signs of healing," said. "She had breaks to six different ribs. Those were older as was the fracture to her right hand. It was to the pinky. Finally she had fractures to her leg to the right."

Donaruma said that there was also multiple spots of bruising on the facial area in multiple spots including the front, back, side of the head and on the eye.  Donaruma said there was also bruising on the chest.

Donaruma said when they did a CT scan, they found a significant amount of blood on the brain. Donaruma said there were signs of fresh blood on the left that was greater than the right side. Donaruma also pointed out there was trauma to the child's liver and it could be considered life-threatening.

"Damage to a child's liver usually happens from blunt force trauma to the child's body," Donaruma said.

Donaruma told prosecutor Clyde Herrington that her opinion was that the child had been abused multiple times. She also believed that when Andrew said the seizure happened, the child would have already eaten.

Donaruma said it is still too early to tell but she believes the brain injuries the child suffered will not fully be known until she grows into her body.

Donaruma told defense attorney Ryan Deaton that she does not know the breakdown of if more cases come in to the hospital that is only one parent abusing the child than two parents abusing the child. She did agree that people do come in and believe that they did nothing to cause the abuse.

Donaruma told Herrington there were no reports of seizures prior to March 24, 2014.

Amber Lewis' father, Craig Minkner then was recalled. Herrington showed Minkner a photograph taken at the hospital of the child. Minkner said there were new bruises on her that he did not see the last time he saw the child.

Amber Lewis' mother, Michelle Minkner, then stated she did not take as much care of her granddaughter as she would like to. Minkner stated that she sometimes watched her grandchild while she watched another couple's baby.

"I would normally just feed her," Minkner said.

Michelle Minkner said she noticed bruises one day and asked Andrew about them.

"I asked if he punched her and he said no," Minkner said. "That's when I took her out for a walk."

Minkner said soon after that she got a call from Amber asking her not to say that again.

Minkner said she traveled back to Hudson from Houston with the couple.

"I was in the backseat," Minkner said. "I was upset because I knew what was going on and they were in the front seat laughing," Minkner said.

Michelle Minkner told Deaton that when she first saw the bruises she did not believe the child was being abused. Michelle Minkner continued to talk to Deaton and said that even though her daughter was laughing in the car ride home, she was very upset at the hospital over the  four to five days they were there.

Michelle Minkner told Tunnell that the weekend in question, Andrew Lewis' parents came down to visit the couple and the couple were the main people to keep her that week.

Dr. Randell Alexander then took the stand next. Alexander is the Chief, Division of Child Protection and Forensic Pediatrics; Program Director, Pediatric Child Abuse Fellowship at the University of Florida College of Medicine in Jacksonville.

"This child has more bruises then a 3-year-old would have," Alexander said. "These bruises are in multiple planes and in different directions. That is going to be physical abuse."

Alexander said the breaks in the leg had to be abuse and a hard force. He also pointed out that ribs can bend some and have a give. Alexander said that for this to happen would most likely be an injury caused by severe shaking of the child.

Alexander said that the story of the child falling off the bed could not lead to these types of injuries.

"You could get a bruise," Alexander said. "Not the fractures or the broken bones. You could get a bruise but not the multiple bruises in multiple directions."

He continued to say that the injuries would not have been life threatening.

Alexander read through a history of events from Andrew that the seizure happened possibly because of a new brain injury that had recently occurred.

Alexander said bruising in children will show in minutes unlike with adults and will fade after a couple of days.

"Children can't bruise themselves at this age," Alexander said. "It still takes the same impact between adults and kids."

Alexander agreed with Deaton that most of the time, abuse is committed by one person, based on the cases and injuries he has observed. He also said he relies heavily on the history.

At 1:40 p.m., the state rested.

Kursten Lee was the first witness for the defense. Lee described an event where they were at a party together and she noticed the child crying and suggested that the child be fed and Amber said,"No she is fine she does not need to eat."

Andrew's sister Jessica told Tunnel that she did get to see the child with Amber and Andrew several times.

"He was very loving with her," Jessica said. He was gentle."

Jessica said the only person that Amber seemed to blame was her mother Michelle.

Jessica told Herrington that Amber was aggressive with how she changed her daughter. When asked why Amber would jerk the clothes off her daughter, Jessica said she didn't know why Amber would do that.

Jessica said she asked Amber why she would know Michelle might have done something and not do anything. Jessica said Amber just kept the conversation moving.

Jessica told Deaton that today was the first time to bring up that Amber said Michelle did something because no one was charged until recently. Jessica said the police were never around them for her to say something.

Deaton then questioned Bailey Leg, Amber's close friend.

Leg described a day she helped Amber out with the child.

"She was close to her," Leg said. "She was attentive. She made sure I held her right. If I wasn't holding her right, she would correct me."

Leg said when she was helping out, the baby started choking, and Amber started to get scared.
"She started calling 911,"

Leg said. "She was freaking out and worried."

Leg said a paramedic came out and the baby stared to breathe better. The paramedic said they thought the baby would be okay and not need to go to the hospital.

Leg felt that the child preferred Amber over Andrew.

Paramedic Josh Morris then told Deaton that he was called out to Amber's home when the child was three weeks old for a choking baby.

"When I got there, the child was with the mom and was acting normal," Morris said.

Angelia Oliver then told Deaton that Amber was a good worker at Duran Pools where they worked together. Oliver said she remembered Amber telling her about the bruises and she said they should go to the doctor.

"I remember her calling the doctor and them telling her to have the baby there by 2 [p.m.]," Oliver said. "I remember she called Andy and asked him to do it and he said he couldn't."

Oliver said the next day Amber was upset and hysterical and told Oliver that her baby had to be taken to a Houston hospital.

Jamie Varner, a nurse practitioner with Angelina Pediatrics said she saw the child at the clinic. She said she first saw the baby at four days old.

"The only abnormal thing on the exam was that the baby was tongue tied," Varner said.

Varner said she saw the baby on the two-month check up. She said the baby was given a good check and vaccines. Verner said there could be some bruising on the thigh where the shot was given.

Craig Minkner, Amber's father, told Deaton that he never saw signs of abuse, and he never abused the child.

Michelle Minkner, Amber's mother, said she never saw any aggression out of Amber towards the child. Michelle Minkner said she never hurt the child.
Marsha Lewis, Andrew's mother, took the stand speak about her son. Marsha said that she and her husband came to Lufkin to visit the two the weekend before the child was taken to the hospital.

Marsha said that Amber was rough with her daughter and would be rough when she put clothes on her. Marsha said an argument happened at a restaurant between Amber and her mother where Amber insinuated that Michelle may have hurt the child.

Marsha told Deaton that she felt like the baby could have had anemia because she used to work for a doctor and that's what she felt based on her working there. Marsha could not remember when she brought up the idea but said it was not on Saturday when she thought the two needed to go to a doctor.

Marsha could not give Deaton an exact amount of women that saw Amber change the diaper of the child when she said it was rough.

"We saw it on different times," Marsha said. "We never got together and said we saw stuff."

Deaton continued to question Marsha on if the story is made up because she didn't like Amber.

Copyright 2016 KTRE. All rights reserved.