By Danielle Silva and Kristen Tuntland
Bloodied Clothes Presented in Child Abuse Trial, Minor’s Physical Condition Examined
By Danielle Silva
Bloodied clothes and witness testimonies on a minor’s physical condition were submitted as evidence in a child abuse trial.
Defendant Ronnie Earnest is charged with the felonies of child abuse and corporal injury of a child. On March 14, 2018, the defendant and his daughter entered into an altercation. According to the testimony of Mr. Earnest’s daughter, they had been arguing in the parking lot of her grandmother’s apartment. As the fight progressed, she claimed the defendant pulled her out of the car, hit her hard enough that she hit a car door and fell to the ground, and held her down. The daughter stated her father likely hit her because she had been suspended from school earlier that day for fighting.
The daughter had her injuries examined on March 14, 2018, by Sutter Davis Emergency Doctor David Walters, M.D. Dr. Walters stated she had come in by ambulance and he gathered information on the causes from the paramedics and nurses.
He testified the daughter had injuries from blunt force trauma. She had scrapes on top of her head, swelling on both her cheeks, her forehead, her nose, and around her eye, blood in both holes of her nose and the cupid’s bow, and bruises on her face and abdomen. Dr. Walters had her take medication similar to Extra-Strength Tylenol for a headache, and ordered a urinalysis to check for internal organ bleeding and a CT scan to check for head trauma. Since the juvenile answered slowly to many of his questions, he wanted to check that there was no head trauma.
In order for her to have a CT scan, Dr. Walters provided the reasons of “alleged assault,” “contusions,” and “nosebleed.” Both the urinalysis test and CT scan did not show signs of any internal bleeding or fractures.
The defense provided pictures of the daughter’s appearance, which the doctor stated didn’t capture what he saw. Since he saw her in person, he did not consult the pictures taken at the time. The pictures didn’t capture the bruising or scrapes properly, and he pointed out areas of swelling and discoloration. Dr. Walters did not recall the defendant’s medical history with nosebleeds but shared that the nose could have been broken by a punch, a fall where she struck something on the way down, or a push.
Following the doctor’s testimony, Detective Joshua Helton of the Davis Police Department took the stand. On the afternoon of March 15, 2018, Detective Helton and his partner Detective Kim Walker went to the Child Welfare Services Office and met the alleged victim in one of the private rooms. The alleged victim noted pain on the right side of her face and left ribs, injuries she stated were caused by her father. Detective Helton could not see any injuries due to the lack of lighting in the room. During the meeting, he collected the alleged victim’s bloodied clothes and took pictures of the fresh red stains on each piece of clothing.
In court, he presented a bag which the clothes had been in, a blue sweatshirt with brown stains on the sleeves and the center of the chest, a white shirt with a brown stain on the center of the shirt, and jeans that had brown stains on the lap of the pants and splatters on the back and greenish-brown stains. Each piece of clothing had been wrapped with brown paper to prevent the stained surfaces from spreading. Detective Helton believed the brown stains to be blood, considering the change of color and stain shapes, and the greenish-brown stains to be grass or mud stains.
The detective admitted he was not present when the bleeding occurred. Additionally, the daughter did not allow him to take pictures of her, and he did not follow up to take pictures.
Detective Helton did explain a Multiple Disciplinary Interview (MDI), an interview process which gains information from someone who was in a stressful situation. This county, however, has limited resources to give this kind of interview so it is usually only given to potential victims of sexual assault cases and severe cases of physical abuse. He did not ask for an MDI. Child Protective Services or the District Attorney’s Office also could have requested an MDI.
Two Child Protective Services workers also testified, having some conflicting statements. They noted being on call when dispatch called them to Sutter Davis Hospital. Social Worker Supervisor Alicia Wasklewicz drove to the hospital with Director of Child & Family Policy Institute of California Kelly Hood.
Ms. Wasklewicz stated the daughter had been with her sister and crying when they arrived but Ms. Hood talk with the juvenile while the supervisor talked with an officer. The supervisor did notice the daughter had a change of clothes and a plastic bag with jeans and bloodied sweatshirt. The daughter eventually gathered her things and the social workers and sisters drove to the Child Protective Services Office. Ms. Hood and the minors stayed there overnight.
Ms. Wasklewicz claimed the daughter said her father took her phone away and she cursed at him. The daughter claimed he pulled her out of the car and hit her five times in the head, face, and stomach. Her mother and grandmother had been present but did not help. Passersby called law enforcement. The daughter did mention a fight earlier that day. The daughter’s friend had grabbed her hair by her ends and thrown her on the concrete.
Ms. Hood did not recall the daughter crying but noticed scratches and swelling. There were scratches on her neck and right cheek, swelling on the right eyebrow, and a hurting stomach. The daughter claimed the injuries were caused by her father’s hits. Ms. Hood did not write a report.
In addition to the testimony on the alleged victim’s physical condition, Officer Kayla Woods testified on a separate incident on March 25, 2015, to show the character of the defendant. The defendant had an altercation with a confidential victim at Elk Grove Park. The victim had been distraught, uncooperative, bleeding from one lip, and blood on her shirt. The woman refused to reveal her name or have her picture taken. The incident had one independent witness.
Three Different Witnesses Testify of Three Prior Arrests
By Kristen Tuntland
The trial of Ronnie Earnest resumed with a short afternoon session due to the dismissal of one witness and the shortened testimony of two other witnesses. The witnesses included a Davis resident, Officer Lilian Smith, and Corporal Simeon McKenzie, all who witnessed different incidents with the defendant’s ex-wife that led to three of his prior arrests.
This first witness was a Davis resident who called the police during an incident in 2015. While talking to her son and ex-husband outside her apartment, she saw a car drive into the parking and heard yelling from it. A man left the car and started walking away without yelling when a woman angrily left the car and starting yelling after the man.
She ran back toward the car and the man chased her; when he caught up to the woman, it appeared he was choking her. During the choking, the man was behind the women, his arm around her with her feet not touching the ground. The facial expression of the woman was scared and panicking.
The witness yelled at them to stop and threatened to call the police. The man paused briefly then resumed the same choking position. She then went inside her apartment to call 911 and watched from her window.
She saw the man then take an eight or nine-year-old girl out of the car toward the park in the apartment complex, but lost sight of him during this. Police arrived on scene and asked her to identify the man they detained, which she confirmed then and also as the defendant in this case.
The second witness was Officer Lilian Smith of the Woodland Police Department who was dispatched to a domestic violence call in 2014. When she arrived on the scene, she contacted the caller at the apartment, who is the defendant’s ex-wife. She was shaking and crying and asked the officer to remove the male from the residence.
Officer Smith observed injuries on her right cheek, right jawline and redness on her neck. These injuries are consistent with a slap to the cheek and hand around the neck. These injuries are also consistent with the ex-wife’s story but she declined to make a statement to the police or seek medical aid. Officer Smith took pictures of the ex-wife’s face and arrested the male in the residence, who sustained no injuries. Officer Smith identified the male from that incident also as the defendant in this case.
The last witness was Corporal Simeon McKenzie of the Woodland Police Department, who was dispatched to a mall parking lot in 2017. When he arrived, he observed the ex-wife of the defendant next to a white BMW with items scattered all around on the ground. He took photos and spoke to the ex-wife, reporting eyewitnesses, and the suspect already detained by other officers. The suspect was later arrested for the incident. However, he could not positively identify that suspect as the defendant in this case, as this incident was over two years ago and he only spoke to the suspect once.
The testimonies of Officer Smith and Corporal McKenzie were short and vague due to what the court allowed them to testify about. They were not allowed to state the testimonies the ex-wife gave to them during the incidents because she is not a witness in this case. If they stated her testimonies but she is not also a witness in this case, the defense would be unable to cross-examine her testimony given to the officers at the time of the incidents, which is unfair for the defense. Another police witness was completely dismissed because his entire testimony consisted of statements given by the ex-wife during another incident.