A police investigator testified Friday that he believed David J. Paul caused fatal injuries to his girlfriend’s 4-month-old baby two years ago when Paul gave the infant “one forceful shove back” to make her stop crying after he accidently dropped her on the linoleum bathroom floor.
“That was the striking blow,” Sgt. Paul Hatch said.
“I didn’t intend to say that he struck her,” Hatch went on to clarify. “The intent was that in my mind that most likely was the time when the injury occurred.”
Hatch was the last witness called to the stand in the three evidentiary hearings that have been held in Juneau Superior Court the past month.
Attorneys requested the hearings to settle factual disputes in the case before Judge Philip Pallenberg must decide whether to dismiss the indictment.
Paul, 23, was indicted by a Juneau grand jury in July 2011 on two counts of second-degree murder and one count of manslaughter in connection to death of Rian Jambi Orr.
Orr was taken to Bartlett Regional Hospital on Aug. 9, 2010, when Paul’s girlfriend, Jacqueline M. Orr, noticed the infant was seizing. The baby died of a brain injury a week later at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle after she was taken off life support on Aug. 15, 2010.
Paul was fingered almost immediately as the only suspect in the case, the lead police investigator Kim Horn testified at the second evidentiary hearing last week.
Paul was interviewed by police multiple times, including at BRH, Harborview, three days after Orr’s death at the JPD station on Aug. 18, as well a nearly a year later — the day he was arrested, July 8, 2011.
In the initial interviews, Paul denied dropping or shaking the baby, according to court documents.
Then during the Aug. 18 interview, he agreed to take a polygraph, was told he failed, and admitted to Investigators Kim Horn and Russ Haight that he accidently dropped the baby on the bathroom floor, which was not the cause of death.
One doctor submitted reports that said the most likely death was something akin to Shaken Baby Syndrome, which is now referred to as Abusive Head Trauma. Another speculated perhaps the death was caused by blunt force with a soft object. A hypothetical example of that would be a baby being thrown on a bed.
Paul had denied shaking the baby up until a 51-minute interview at the JPD headquarters with Investigator Sgt. Paul Hatch on July 8, 2011, shortly after Paul was arrested.
Paul repeated to Hatch he accidently dropped Orr in the bathroom around 9 a.m. before her morning feeding, according to prosecutors.
But then Paul stated, “She just still wouldn’t stop crying, so I go, ‘Hey.’ ... That was it. She — after just that quick little shake, she — she quit crying a little bit and mellowed down and I thought she was fine,” according to a transcript of the interview read aloud Friday by Assistant District Attorney Angie Kemp.
Paul added, “I was holding her like this, and I was trying to talk to her and trying to get her to stop crying, and she wouldn’t listen, so I went, ‘Hey.’ And I think I probably shook her, and she bounced like three times when I did it, but it was just one. Just one forceful shove back,” Kemp read aloud.
Defense attorney Eric Hedland on Friday asked Hatch about the interview at JPD, specifically why Hatch kept asking Paul if he had lost his temper or patience with Orr.
“What information did you have that he lost his patience?” Hedland asked.
“Well, it’s an assumption,” Hatch replied. “That’s the trigger for whatever the baby was doing that caused the abusive head trauma.”
“What information did you have that he lost his temper?” Hedland continued.
“A dead child,” Hatch said.
Hatch, who was not involved in the case before his boss Lt. Kris Sell asked him to interview Paul that day, went on to say that Paul was the suspect because Paul was alone with the baby, and he was the last one to be with her alone.
Hedland told the judge after Hatch was excused from the courtroom that the state’s theories have changed, and this latest one was new to him.
“I heard for the first time with both Det. Horn and Paul Hatch today that the theory now is gotten to be that, ‘It was this one shake, this was the fatal strike, this one shake,” Hedland said.
Hedland asked the judge to suppress the statement wherein Paul tells police he accidently dropped the baby, arguing that he was not Mirandized properly.
“The police unequivocally blew through his request for counsel,” Hedland said.
Hedland also requested the judge dismiss the indictment, arguing the grand jury heard inadmissible evidence when they were told Orr had previous injuries. (Doctors who examined Orr noted she had older injuries that predated the head injuries, according to court documents, including multiple healing rib fractures that were about two weeks old, a femur fracture and bruising on her chest.)
There was no evidence that Paul caused those prior injuries, Hedland said, noting Paul was not indicted on those charges.
“He’s not charged with breaking her ribs,” Hedland told Pallenberg Friday.
“He’s not with charged with causing fractures,” Headland said. “(The state) didn’t have enough to go to a grand jury with assault three’s on those, but then to use them as evidence when you can’t even indict on them?”
Attorneys will have to June 8 to submit final supplementary briefs before Pallenberg will issue a ruling.
If the indictment is not dismissed, Paul will go to trial in July.
• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.