The horrific injuries a five-month-old Conyers infant endured before his death were revealed Monday in the trial of the child's parents, who are facing abuse and murder charges. Closing arguments will be given tomorrow before the jury begins deliberations.
The trial of Matea and Grant Stewart, who were both 21 when authorities say their son James died in 2010 as a result of blunt force trauma to the head, began last week and testimony wrapped today with only one day of defense testimony.
The Stewarts are each charged with malice murder, three counts of felony murder, two counts of cruelty to children in the first degree, aggravated battery and two counts of contributing to the deprivation of a minor. They are being tried together in Rockdale Superior Court Judge Sidney Nation's courtroom.
Dr. Johnathan Eisenstat told the court Monday about the severity of injuries five-month-old James Stewart endured in short life. Dr. Eisenstat conducted the autopsy and found the infant to have fractures in 14 ribs, both thighs and both arms, all of which pathology tests showed had been caused at least within the last eight weeks of the baby's life. But he said it was the six-inch fracture in the child's head that ultimately caused his brain to swell and resulted in his death on July 29, 2010.
"This is not an injury that happens when you fall or when that part of the body strikes something," Dr. Eisenstat testifed. "It is done by enough pulling by an individual. It could not be caused by a baby rolling off a couch. A baby's bones are very pliable in the first year, making it much less likely that there would be as many fractures." He further stated that the fractures "are most likely caused by a compression or a squeezing, especially the rear rib fractures". Dr. Eisenstat said he believes the fatal blow was given within 24 to 36 hours of the child's death.
The couple had only been married since January of 2010 when Matea Stewart gave birth to James in February. On July 28, 2010, the couple called 911 to the family's home at 362 Morris Drive because the baby was in severe respiratory distress. The infant died the next day and the couple was arrested and charged on August 19, 2010.
Matea Stewart testified in her own defense Tuesday following testimony from her sister. It had been determined that she was the primary care taker of the baby and that Grant Stewart had been working a long-haul trucking job in the weeks before James' death. He had returned home the morning of the fateful 911 call, and Matea Stewart's defense is alleging he could have dealt the fatal blow to the baby's head that day.
"I have no idea when these injuries happened," Matea Start said from the stand despite the fact that there has been testimony about an incident where she threw the baby across the room into a recliner and her own admission to investigators that she had dropped the child twice and he had fallen off the couch in the months preceeding his death. The couple never took the child to doctor following any of those incidents.
Several references to Matea Stewart's temper and history of violent behavior have been mentioned throughout the trial while Grant Stewart has been described as quiet and introverted. He did not take the stand in his own defense but his step-father and mother did and both said while Grant Stewart did have anger issues in high school he had matured when he adopted Matea Stewart's son James.
Closing arguments will begin at 1pm Wednesday in Rockdale County Superior Court Judge Sidney Nation's courtroom.