Dewey man found guilty of murdering 15-month-old step-daughter
BY LAURA SUMMERS World Correspondent
Friday, February 01, 2013
BARTLESVILLE — A Washington County jury convicted a 23-year-old Dewey man Friday evening of murdering a 15-month-old child last year.
The seven-man, five-woman jury, which was seated on Monday, deliberated just over five hours before convicting Marcus Trinidad Mitchell of first-degree murder and three counts of child neglect. Mitchell has been jailed for 11 months in connection with the Feb. 24 death of his step-daughter, Emma Beth Warmerbrodt.
“Marcus Mitchell killed that baby, and he wiped the blood off with those wipes,” Assistant District Attorney Jared Sigler told the jury. “He caused blunt-force trauma. He broke the ribs on that child. He bruised her lung and he bruised her heart, and it killed her.”
Bartlesville attorney Mark Kane, court-appointed to represent Mitchell, opened his closing arguments by saying he believed that his client did kill the toddler by striking her, but he urged the jury to find Mitchell guilty of second-degree manslaughter rather than murder.
Although Mitchell’s story changed at various times in his interviews with police, he maintained at one point that he had struck the baby on her back in an effort to dislodge a piece of cereal that was choking her. Kane maintained that Mitchell was guilty of “culpable negligence,” which would constitute manslaughter, arguing that he did not use ordinary care or caution.
“It is clear that Marcus did not willfully and maliciously injure the child,” Kane said. “He wasn’t trying to kill her. He didn’t mean to kill her.”
But prosecutors pointed to the pattern of abusive injuries the baby had suffered. Police detectives testified that Emma had a black eye and bruises all over her head and neck in various stages of healing from injuries sustained over time.
Assistant District Attorney Will Drake said the injuries could not be seen as an accident.
“You don’t want to think that someone could do this to a child,” Drake told jurors. “You want to think that the person who calls this child his own — the father this child knows — would not do something like this. You want to think he wouldn’t beat this child to death, but ladies and gentlemen, that is not the evidence here.”
District Judge Curtis DeLapp set a March 27 formal sentencing date for Mitchell.
Jurors recommended life in prison on the murder charge, plus a $5,000 fine. They recommended sentences of 25 years, 12 years and one year on the three child-neglect convictions. They recommended six months in the county jail on convictions for drug and paraphernalia possession.
After the verdict was read, DeLapp urged the jurors to talk about the case with their loved ones and to go home and hug their family members.
He noted that this particular case was particularly difficult for a jury and urged them to contact him to get counseling if they are have trouble later in dealing with the impact of the evidence.
“If you don’t have anyone to talk to about it, I’m in the phone book. Give me a call,” the judge said. “There’s probably not any case harder to deal with than the death of a child.”
Dewey Police Sgt. Tim Stringer had told the jury of receiving a call at 2:30 p.m. last February about a baby who wasn’t breathing. When officers arrived at the home in the 300 block of Cherokee Avenue, they found the lifeless, bruised body of a toddler that was showing signs of rigor mortis, indicating that she had been dead for some time.
Also charged in the case is Ashley Ann Mitchell, the baby’s 24-year-old mother, who last week pleaded guilty to charges of child neglect and enabling child abuse. Her sentencing is set for April 3.
Juanchellee Lanyl Fitch, 49, who is Marcus Mitchell’s mother, last week waived her right to a jury trial on charges of accessory to murder and child neglect. Kane pointed out that Fitch has a plea agreement pending in her case. She returns to court Wednesday.
Testimony in Marcus Mitchell’s trial noted that Emma was raised in a “filthy” home in which black mold was found on her crib pad, drugs and paraphernalia were located in the bedroom in which she was staying, and that nine adults lived in the house.
Kane noted that many witnesses testified about living with or near the baby and seeing the bruises and injuries and the condition of the home, but they said they did not act to help her.
None of those witnesses are facing charges.
Sigler told the jury that Emma lived in a home with “people coming in and out partying while she was in her playpen.” He maintained that Marcus Mitchell knew he had injured the child but chose to leave the house rather than help her or call someone else to help her.
“It comes down to accountability,” Sigler said. “It’s not all about Marcus Mitchell. We’ve got a dead baby.”
Marcus Trinidad Mitchell