Child-abuse cases can be emotional for juries; 4 high-profile cases working …
The cases include:
* Lee Crutchfield, 39, formerly of Cahokia, who was convicted in December of the beating death of 6-year-old Ryon Smith on Christmas Day 2005. Crutchfield is scheduled for sentencing on March 7. Police said the boy was so badly beaten they couldn’t initially determine his race.
Starr Lohman, 30, Ryon’s mother, who testified against her former live-in boyfriend, Crutchfield, was initially charged with first-degree murder, but accepted a deal to plead guilty to aggravated battery of a child in exchange for her testimony. She is scheduled to enter the plea and be sentenced March 20.
* Kenneth Zook, 26, formerly of Belleville, who is charged with first-degree murder in connection with the death of 5-month-old Alayna Frazier on Feb. 17, 2008. Zook is scheduled to go to trial on April 9.
Alayna’s mother, Kayla Frazier, 27, was charged with endangering the life of a child, a misdemeanor, after police discovered Zook injected her with heroin hours before baby Alayna was found on the floor of Frazier’s apartment not breathing. Frazier received probation.
Since she was placed on probation, Frazier has racked up two driving-under-the-influence tickets, two felony charges of theft, retail theft and burglary. She received her first prison sentence in August for three years on the retail theft and burglary charges. She is scheduled for release in May 2013.
* Kraig Monroe Jr., 26, of Belleville, who faces aggravated battery of a child charge in connection with the beating injuries received by Amanda Runyon, then 2 in March 2010. Amanda suffered tears to her liver and doctors removed more than a foot of her bowel. Amanda survived. Monroe is free on bond. His trial is scheduled to begin May 7.
* Julian Gates, 22, formerly of Belleville, who was charged with first-degree murder in connection with the beating death of 2-year-old Mia Caito. His case will be heard by the grand jury for an indictment. The child was covered with bruises, according to police. Those injuries occurred over time, Coroner Rick Stone has said.
Defense lawyers will usually try to raise reasonable doubt to defend those accused of child injury or death, Schroeder said.
In Crutchfield’s case, Thomas Q. Keefe III argued Ryon suffered from an undiagnosed case of epilepsy. Dr. Thomas Young, a medical expert paid by the defense, testified that he believed Ryon died of natural causes.
Pictures shown to the jury showed a child’s body covered in bruises and a black eye. The jury disagreed with Keefe’s theory.
“It’s tough because you have to use the medical evidence in your favor — and sometimes it’s not,” Schroeder said. “Juries can get suspicious about paid experts, too.”
In child death cases, if the defendant is convicted, they could receive a natural life sentence. In the aggravated battery case, such as Zook’s, it is a class X felony punishable by six to 30 years in prison. However, defendants aren’t eligible for day-for-day credit. They must serve 85 percent of their sentence before they are eligible for release. After their release, they must then register as a child murderer.