Dewey man guilty of 15-month-old's murder
BY LAURA SUMMERS World Correspondent
Saturday, February 02, 2013
2/02/13 at 6:07 AM
BARTLESVILLE - A Washington County jury convicted a Dewey man Friday evening of murdering a 15-month-old child last year.
The jury deliberated just more than five hours before convicting Marcus Trinidad Mitchell, 23, 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 stepdaughter, Emma Beth Warmerbrodt.
"Marcus Mitchell killed that baby," 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."
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 toddler on her back in an effort to dislodge a piece of cereal that was choking her.
"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 abuse the child had suffered. Detectives testified that Emma had a black eye and bruises all over her head and neck in various stages of healing from injuries suffered 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 ... that is not the evidence here."
District Judge Curtis DeLapp set formal sentencing for March 27.
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.
Also charged in the case is Ashley Ann Mitchell, 24, Emma's mother, who last week pleaded guilty to child neglect and enabling child abuse. Her sentencing is set for April 3.
Juanchellee Lanyl Fitch, 49, who is Marcus Mitchell's mother, has waived her right to a jury trial on charges of accessory to murder and child neglect and has a plea agreement pending. She is due back in court Wednesday.
Marcus Mitchell: Jurors recommended life in prison on the first-degree murder count