Prosecution rests on fifth day of Hammond trial

DOVER — A pediatrician testified Monday to her belief that a 7-month-old girl died from blunt force trauma two days after arriving at her great aunt’s home three years ago.

The baby, Aubri N. Thompson of Dover, was pronounced dead on Feb. 28, 2014, after defendant James E. Hammond and his girlfriend brought her to Milford Memorial Hospital with head wounds and in a lifeless state, according to earlier trial testimony.

The couple was babysitting Aubri beginning Feb. 25 as her parents vacationed in the Bahamas.

Mr. Hammond is charged with first-degree murder by abuse or neglect and will receive 15 years to life in prison if convicted.

Last week, he declined to plead guilty to a second-degree offense and receive a 10-year prison sentence that would likely be lessened through time served.

Deputy Attorneys General Stephen R. Welch and Stephen E. Smith rested their case on the fifth day of trial early Monday afternoon.

The defense will call witnesses beginning at 9:30 a.m. today, followed by summations.

James. E. Hammond

Through witness statements and medical records, Dr. Cindy Christian, a pediatrician from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, built a timeline she thinks showed when the baby was fatally wounded.

She surmised that Aubri arrived at the home on a Tuesday night, received her injuries Thursday morning and was taken to the hospital on Friday night with no chance of survival due to severe brain swelling.

The pediatrician described the baby as dead upon arrival at the hospital emergency center and noted that over an hour at resuscitation attempts were unsuccessful.

On cross examination from defense attorney P. Scott Wilson, Dr. Christian acknowledged that incorrect information in witness interviews she reviewed could affect her timeline; also, she was not a pathologist, didn’t attend the autopsy and wasn’t at the home in the 200 block of Commerce Street where Aubri was staying at the time of her demise.

The prosecution has maintained the baby was struck multiple times in the head as Mr. Hammond cared for her while his girlfriend and her older children were at a doctor’s appointment, while the defendant claims Aubri fell from her crib.

The severe injuries included multiple impact injuries to the head, face and ears causing abrasions and bruises, along with bleeding under the scalp and in the back of her eyes, according to medical reports.

The CHOP doctor described the wounds as “injuries highly correlated with inflicted trauma.” She did not believe a fall from the crib in the home could have caused such injuries.

While Dr. Christian said she had read no reports indicating any active and alert activity by the infant after Thursday afternoon, the defense pointed to an earlier interview in which a girl at the home said she remembered playing with the baby on the Friday night when she already died.

Another account referenced hearing a baby’s cries on Thursday night.

The defense also elicited Mr. Hammond’s earlier claims that Aubri cried for 10 to 15 minutes after a fall from a crib and he cried as well because “he was so scared.”

The child had a cold when dropped off at the Harrington home, which was later diagnosed as influenza. Her mother testified that she was otherwise healthy at the time and had no bruises or injuries.

Aubri could not walk, talk or stand up according to her mother and could crawl on her elbows and roll over.

She never climbed or fell out of a 10- to 12-inch deep bassinet she slept in, her mother testified.

Lead Delaware State Police Detective Mark Ryde testified to the crib Aubri stayed in as being roughly nine inches deep when the side was down.

Due to the financial hardship of not working while serving at trial, Resident Judge William L. Witham Jr. excused a jurist from duty Monday and replaced him with an alternate. Jurists are not paid but reimbursed $20 daily for expenses associated with serving.

The departure left a 10-woman 5-man jury, including alternates.

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