LISBON - The prosecution played audio recordings of two statements Miranda Todd gave to investigators the morning of her infant son's, during testimony Friday in Todd's murder trial in Columbiana County Common Pleas Court.
Dawn Zilich-Miller, a social worker with Children Services, said she was called to the hospital shortly after the death of Derek Dennison, Todd's 7-month-old child. Her office is always among those called in the death of an infant, Zilich-Miller testified. Investigators always speak to the parents and those around the baby prior to death, she said.
Zilich-Miller testified Dennison had bruising across his forehead and the left side of his head was swollen.
"It looked like if you touched it, it would be mushy," Zilich-Miller said.
While at the hospital, Zilich-Miller said she pulled up any information about Dennison in her computer. She learned there had been an earlier referral on March 3, when someone reported he was being medically neglected. However, the matter was investigated, and it turned out Dennison had been taken for a previously ordered upper GI the same day the report was filed. The test and a change in formula had been ordered due to Dennison not gaining weight, but Zilich-Miller said it was determined he was not being neglected at that time. Instead Todd and Greg Dennison were recommended to get counseling and utilize transportation available through their state medical card for appointments.
At that point, the first of two audio recordings, which lasted more than an hour, was played for the jury. Jurors were given transcripts to follow along with the audio recordings, which were difficult to hear due to quality of the tape. Judge Scott Washam denied on Friday a request by the newspaper, which also sought a copy of the transcripts to be used of purposes of reporting.
Washam told jurors the transcripts were provided as an accommodation, but were not to be considered evidence. The audio was the actual evidence, and if there were any discrepancies between the two, jurors should believe the audio.
At one point, an investigator is heard asking "Have you hit him?"
"No, never, I never hit my baby," Todd responds.
At another point an investigator states "We are going to investigate this until we get to the bottom of this, whether it be you or someone else... I need to know, did you hit your child." She again responded in the negative.
Later during the cross examination it was read from page 41 of the transcript Todd was asked three times about hitting her child. Besides the first response she reportedly at one point said "No I have never hit him in my entire life. I do not hit my children."
During the statements Todd admits she and her roommates Steven Van Pelt and Kayli Stiffler were all involved in a dating relationship. Todd moved in with the couple about six or seven weeks before the baby's death and was living there at the time.
Zilich-Miller was questioned by Assistant Prosecutor Tim McNicol about the statement if she had any additional concerns after it. She pointed out the baby had "significant bruising across the forehead and one side of the head is smashed, but (Todd) thought they were little bruises." Zilich-Miller said Todd's statement also indicated the baby had spent a lot of time that day in the Pack 'N Play, a foldable playpen type of bed.
"The little guy laid there and died while he was by himself," Zilich-Miller said.
Zilich-Miller pointed out Todd, toward the end of the interview, suddenly remembered the baby "seemed kind of scared of Steve (Van Pelt)." However, throughout the interview she continually denied Van Pelt was aggressive with the baby.
A second statement was taken from Todd after investigators spoke to Todd's grandmother Rita Heim. Zilich-Miller said Todd requested the second interview because there was something else she wanted to tell them.
The audio of that statement was played for the jury, which was again afforded a transcript to follow along. At one point, investigators asked Todd why she never told her grandmother about the baby's bruises, adding the grandmother was surprised Todd had not told her.
Zilich-Miller again was questioned about Todd's statement. She said Todd indicated she once saw Van Pelt act aggressively toward Stiffler, but never toward Derek Dennison. Zilich-Miller testified her office had only been called once regarding the son of Van Pelt and Stiffler, when someone reported Stiffler was living in a parking lot with her son.
Todd reportedly iced Dennison's head the night he died and left to go for a walk. Zilich-Miller reported as far as she could tell, the ice was still sitting on Dennison's head when Todd left for the walk with Michael Condon. Todd admitted in her statement they smoked marijuana on their walk.
Defense attorney Charlie Kidder questioned the order in which investigators talked to Todd, Heim, then Todd again, before speaking to Stiffler and Van Pelt. Zilich-Miller responded there was no particular reason for the order. Kidder also questioned if she felt at times the first interview with Todd was accusatory. At times, Todd can be heard sobbing on the tape.
Zilich-Miller said the room was concrete and voices echoed in the room. Sometimes Todd cried and sometimes her voice was low, making it inaudible, Zilich-Miller added.
Testimony is scheduled to resume on Monday morning.