Stepdaughter testifies in trial of man accused in baby’s death

James. E. Hammond

DOVER — After watching a taped interview of herself f rom three years ago at age 10, a Harrington girl acknowledged providing a confusing timeline when recalling an infant’s stay at her home that ultimately resulted in death.

The now 13-year-old girl testified Wednesday morning in the trial of her stepfather James E. Hammond, who is charged with first-degree murder by abuse or neglect while caring for Aubri N. Thompson of Dover in February 2014.

During an interview at the Children’s Advocacy Center soon after the 7-month-old’s death, the girl at times offered contradictory and changing recall of dates and moments preceding the child’s transport to the hospital for emergency care.

Speaking with a CAC staff member at the time, the girl remembered her mother saying at home the infant was “still breathing but I don’t know if we can get her there fast enough” to the hospital.

Her mother and Mr. Hammond then took the unresponsive baby to the Milford Memorial Hospital Emergency Room on Feb. 28, 2014, where she died just over an hour later after resuscitation attempts by medical personnel failed.

Before leaving home in the 200 block of Commerce Street just before 6:30 p.m., according to the child, her mother clapped several times while calling out ‘Aubri’ in hope of getting a reaction from the nearly lifeless child who was secured in a car seat. The infant’s heartbeat was apparently irregular as concern grew.

The child recalled that she also “yelled over my mom’s yells ‘Aubri’ and kept on clapping” before being told to stop,

Coming into the living the 10-year-old recalled her cousin “wouldn’t respond, she didn’t move at all, which (scared me) but I didn’t want to show it.

“I wanted her to be OK. I felt really bad that she wasn’t responding.”

The girl did not remember Mr. Hammond saying anything at the time before the couple left for the hospital.

At some point during the baby’s multi-day stay, the girl told the CAC, she noticed bumps on her cheeks and a big bruise on her head. A medical examiner confirmed that Aubri died from blunt force trauma to the head in a homicide.

On Feb. 26 while at a doctor’s visit, the girl said she remembered hearing her mother get a call from Mr. Hammond reporting that Aubri had fallen from a crib. Mr. Hammond was caring for the child and his 7-month old daughter for three hours or more at the time, according to prosecutors.

The girl recalled in the interview that Aubri was sick with a cold and couldn’t go on a family vacation cruise when dropped off at her home by an aunt to stay earlier in the week.

Wednesday’s session began with the girl’s now 17-year-old brother watching his CAC interview from three years earlier, which elicited that he did not see any wounds on Aubri or witness any injuries being caused.

Both children reported feeling safe in their home and did not hear any undue commotion during the week in question.

The state has alleged that Aubri suffered fatal punches to the head while Mr. Hammond babysat her on Feb. 26.

If convicted, Mr. Hammond faces 15 years to life in prison. On Monday, he declined a plea deal to second-degree murder or neglect offering 10 years incarceration followed by probation.

P. Scott Wilson is representing the defendant. Deputy Attorneys General Stephen R. Welch and Stephen E. Smith are prosecuting the case. Resident Judge William L. Witham Jr. is overseeing the proceedings before a 10-woman, six-man jury.

Through Wednesday morning, the late child’s parents did not attend the trial.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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