by Kristen Tuntland and Lauren Jaech
Daughter of Defendant Covered in Dried Blood
By Kristen Tuntland
Officer Derrick Russell’s body camera played in court showed him talking to an emotional daughter of a possibly abusive father while she was covered in dried blood, events of which she remembers very little. The trial of her father, Ronnie Earnest, resumed this morning with three witnesses: his daughter, Officer Russell, who responded to the call, and Cara Keables, who assessed the daughter.
The prosecution first continued from yesterday with the testimony of the daughter of Mr. Earnest. However, as the prosecution and defense asked her questions, she consistently replied that she did not remember or did not know. When asked if looking at a copy of her statement would help her recollection, she mostly said it would not, but the prosecution asked her to read it multiple times anyway. Both sides asked her about the testimony she gave at the preliminary hearing, but she did not remember testifying then.
She did state that, during the incident in question, she and her father were initially arguing and fighting in the car but she did not feel the need to call for help because this was not uncommon. She was arguing with her father angrily, whom she classified as having an attitude and yelling before he opened his front passenger door, got out, and opened the rear door to reach for her.
After being asked several questions and not knowing the answers, she eventually testified that her father dragged her from the car in the parking lot to her grandmother’s apartment. He then hit her, which caused her to fall against the door and land on the ground, but she could not get up as he painfully held her down.
The next witness was Officer Derrick Russell, who originally responded to the call at the apartment complex. His body camera showed him approaching the apartment door where he heard yelling and noticed blood on the front door and porch area. He and his fellow officer put gloves on and readied a Taser before they knocked on the door and yelled, “Davis Police Department.” Once the door opened, he walked in and positioned himself in front the daughter and yelled at Mr. Earnest to come out. He required Mr. Earnest to walk down the stairs inside the house backwards with his arms up, and immediately cuffed him near the end of the stairs.
He guided the daughter from her seat on the floor to an outside walkway separate from the rest of the family. Through tears, she said that he hit her because she was suspended from school for fighting. He hit her five or more times with open and closed fists on her face and stomach. She tried to fight back but could not because he is a “grown ass man.” Officer Russell observed her nose bleeding and facial injuries and decided she needed to get checked out at a hospital. She stated that she did not have any other injuries besides the bloody nose, however.
The prosecution then showed pictures taken by Officer Russell of the daughter in the hospital, depicting a bloody nose, swelling and bruising of the right eye, and a cut inside the lip. Additionally, her face, clothing and hands were covered in so much dried blood that her sweatshirt looked wet. He testified that inside the hospital the daughter told him her father often disciplined her violently, but she was afraid of the consequences from reporting incidents.
However, the defense pointed out that the officers did not hear any punching noises from inside the apartment and Mr. Earnest’s demeanor was calm and cooperative during the entire interaction. The defense also pointed out that the girl had no broken bones or chipped teeth, and had a spontaneous nose bleeding disorder; additionally, a punch from Mr. Earnest, a 250-pound man, would have caused more damage.
The last witness was Cara Keables, a paramedic who arrived on scene to assess the daughter. In her report from the day of the incident, she wrote that the daughter was crying, scared, guarded, upset, and hesitant to speak. The physical exam documented abdominal pain, a bloody nose, and facial lacerations. Ms. Keables did not note any eye swelling or outward marks on her stomach, though.
Ms. Keables was concerned because of the large amount of blood on the daughter’s clothing and body from her nose and the high level of abdominal pain. She decided the daughter needed to see a doctor to check for internal bleeding and also decided it would be a safe place for her to go. The daughter initially did not want to go to the hospital but relented after Ms. Keables encouraged her to do so. She tried to speak to the daughter multiple times, all of which the girl rejected. However, when asked if this had happened before, the daughter responded affirmatively and said it was from a male relative.
The trial of Ronnie Earnest will reconvene this afternoon with an out-of-order witness from defense and will resume on February 25 at 8:30 AM with more witnesses.
Possible Causes of Injury Disputed in Child Endangerment Case
By Lauren Jaech
In Department 13, the case of People v Ronnie Earnest resumed on Friday afternoon with three witness testimonies. Mr. Earnest is facing charges of child abuse and corporal injury on a child for an incident that took place on March 14, 2018.
The afternoon began with the defense calling the pediatrician of the alleged victim, Mr. Earnest’s daughter, to the stand to recount her history of chronic nosebleeds, which were previously cited by the defense as an explanation for the amount of blood at the scene of the incident and on Mr. Earnest’s daughter’s clothing.
The witness testified that he had seen Mr. Earnest’s daughter approximately once a year for a well-child exam and had recorded two instances of nosebleeds in the past, the first occurring when she was sick and the second after being hit in the face by a tetherball.
In 2015, he referred Mr. Earnest’s daughter to a specialist in 2015 for her chronic nosebleeds, based on concern showed by the alleged victim’s mother about her daughter’s nosebleeds.
Detective Kim Walker, a Davis police officer since 2007, testified that she visited Mr. Earnest’s daughter with her partner, Detective Joshua Helton, in a child welfare services office for a follow-up on the case. Mr. Earnest’s daughter declined to have photos taken of her but described pain in her right eye, ribs, and right arm from “him hitting me.” Detective Walker claimed this was a direct quote from Mr. Earnest’s daughter.
When asked if there were any visible injuries on Mr. Earnest’s daughter, she said the lighting was dark in the private room in the child welfare services office and she did not observe any bruising or swelling.
The last witness who testified on Friday afternoon was the vice principal at Emerson Junior High School, who had been working in that position for the last four years. He recalled an altercation on March 14, 2018, between Mr. Earnest’s daughter and another female student after school while the students were waiting for the bus.
The witness said the fight started as play-fighting but turned serious and he described the fight as primarily ground wrestling and hair pulling. He helped separate the two students with the help of several other staff members.
While bringing the students back to the office, they were able to break free and re-engage with each other. He saw the two bump into each other while pulling each other’s hair, which caused them to fall to the ground. After they fell, he and the other staff member were able to pull the students apart and successfully bring them to two separate offices in the high school.
In the office, he observed mud on Mr. Earnest’s daughter’s knees and minor scrapes on her hands but did not notice any blood on her body or clothing. He also did not see any blood or marks on her face. However, she had the hood of her sweatshirt up the entire time, which presented him with a limited view of her face.
Mr. Earnest’s daughter declined first aid and did not show signs of pain other than massaging one of her hands.
The People v Ronnie Earnest will resume with more witness testimonies on Monday, February 25. The jury will have to decide whether Mr. Earnest should be charged with abuse of his 15-year-old daughter, causing her corporal injuries.