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Trial begins for woman charged in son's death

September 01, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- A woman accused of causing her infant son's death was under stress and "snapped" while caring for the boy, but she did not maliciously or intentionally injure the child, her attorney said Tuesday during opening statements in her trial in Berkeley County Circuit Court.

Monica W. Boggs of Hedgesville, W.Va., was indicted in February on charges of death of a child by a parent, guardian or custodian, child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury and gross child neglect creating substantial risk of bodily injury.

Her 7-month-old son, Skylar, died Aug. 19, 2008, as a result of blunt force trauma, police have said.

"I want you to see the type of person she really is," defense attorney B. Craig Manford told a jury of seven women and five men.

In a PowerPoint presentation, Manford showed jurors portions of a scrapbook his client made about the birth of her son, including photographs of herself after she became pregnant at 17 years old and paternity test results. The child's father was not part of the boy's life when he died, Manford said.

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Manford said his client lied at a family reunion about how a dark bruise around Skylar's left eye was caused three days before the child died. Boggs, 20, later admitted she threw a baby bottle into the crib "out of frustration" amid efforts to calm the child, Manford said.

Manford said Boggs also did not tell police in her first statement about how she threw the child into the crib the day before she found him not breathing.

"Monica didn't think she had seriously hurt Skylar," Manford said.

The fracture of the boy's skull is believed to have occurred Aug. 18, when his head struck a hard plastic toy piano when his mother put him in the crib, Manford said.

Manford said Boggs mistook symptoms of the child's head trauma as symptoms of teething and a cold, which the boy previously experienced.

Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela J. Games-Neely told the jury authorities found evidence of bumps and bruises that were not consistent for a child of Skylar's age, in addition to the more traumatic injuries.

"This is death at the hands of this mother," Games-Neely said. "All of us have been frustrated parents. It doesn't give you the right to do what she did to this child."

Games-Neely said the state's evidence would include a medical examiner's findings that the infant's manner of death was homicide and child battery.

Boggs' neighbors testified Tuesday that they recognized almost immediately the child was dead when Boggs took him to Karen Miller's home for help. Berkeley County Central Dispatch was contacted from Miller's home because Boggs and her mother did not have a telephone, Miller said.

"He was completely gray," Miller said of the boy's appearance.

Neighbor Karen Tomes told jurors four people performed CPR on the child in an attempt to revive him.

"I just remembered seeing those empty little eyes," Tomes said.

Tomes and other witnesses testified that Boggs was talking on a mobile phone at one point during efforts to revive the child and didn't appear to be upset.

"I would have reacted differently," Tomes said of Boggs' behavior.

West Virginia State Police Trooper J.J. Bowman testified Tuesday that Boggs and other family members seemed sad at City Hospital in Martinsburg when he was dispatched there to investigate the infant's death.

But in a recorded interview with Bowman that was played for the jury, Boggs did not sound grief-stricken as she talked about feeding the child "his applesauce" and giving him children's Tylenol for the first time.

"Today, he was fine," Boggs told Bowman at one point in the interview.

Boggs also told Bowman her son was lying on his back in the crib when she found him not breathing, and the trooper testified she used a teddy bear to show him where the infant was in the crib.

While documenting the cluttered condition of the child's bedroom in the brick, ranch-style home along Hedgesville Road, Bowman said Boggs pointed to a plastic piano at the foot of the crib and said boy's face had hit it, causing the bruising around his eye.

The trial continues today.

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