DAYTON, Ohio — The cousin of a month-old girl who was burned to death in a microwave told friends that he was responsible for putting her in the oven, a defense attorney said Monday during opening statements in the retrial of the child’s mother.
The young relative also told friends that he hadn’t been lying about the death when prosecutors later announced a microwave was used in the 2005 death, defense attorney Jon Paul Rion said.
“I know who killed that baby,” the cousin had said days after the death, Rion told jurors.
China Arnold, 28, is being retried on charges that she killed Paris Talley by burning her in an oven. Arnold has pleaded not guilty to a charge of aggravated murder. She could face the death penalty if convicted.
Judge John Kessler declared a mistrial Feb. 11 after he privately heard testimony from a juvenile who said he was at Arnold’s apartment complex the night the baby died. The judge declared the mistrial just as closing arguments were to begin but did not reveal what the juvenile said.
The Dayton Daily News later reported that the mistrial came after a man told defense attorneys that his 5-year-old son identified an older child as the person who might have put the baby in the oven, saying the older child had a history of putting cats and dolls into microwaves.
Rion said that two witnesses will testify to the relative’s confession and that a third will say the man’s 5-year-old son said he saw the cousin carry the infant out of Arnold’s home and into another kitchen.
Testimony from mother's cellmate
Prosecutors said evidence will show that Arnold was responsible for her daughter’s death. Their case will include testimony from a former cellmate of Arnold who claims Arnold confessed to her and described putting the child in the microwave.
“’She fit right in.’ Those are the words of this defendant,” said Dan Brandt, assistant Montgomery County prosecutor.
Russell Uptegrove, a forensic pathologist with the Montgomery County coroner’s office, testified for the prosecution that burns on the infant’s face, chest and limbs were consistent with burning by microwaves.
The infant died of an elevated body temperature, probably from being in a microwave for more than two minutes, and some of the baby’s DNA was found in the oven, he said.
Arnold has offered too many different accounts of what happened after she and the baby’s father shared a bottle of liquor in a park, Brandt told jurors.
But Rion argued that Arnold couldn’t remember what happened and was probably too drunk that night to have put the infant in the oven. There were also varying accounts from others of the events of that night, he said.
“She’s not lying,” Rion said. “She’s simply trying to put the pieces of the evening together.”
The trial is expected to last three weeks.
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