Medical Examiner Testifies Toddler Would Have Shown Signs of Blunt Force Head Injury
By Trish Mehaffey, Reporter
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - A medical examiner said Thursday 17-month-old Kamryn Schlitter would have displayed symptoms or abnormalities soon after suffering a "significant" blunt force head injury that likely occurred the day she was admitted to the hospital March 21, 2010.
Dr. Marcus Nashelsky, Johnson County medical examiner and pathology professor at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, who performed the autopsy, testified there wasn't a single impact to the external part of her head but she had an impact on her face, multiple bruising to the cheeks and forehead, which would affect her brain functioning.
"This was a huge shock to me," Kamryn's father Zyriah Schlitter, who is accused of killing her, told an investigator in an audio recording played for jurors Thursday. "She's been so healthy."
Kamryn was more "clingy and whiny" after being sick with an ear infection and pink eye but when her fever broke she was fine, Schlitter said March 23, 2010 in the interview.
The prosecution continues its case 9 a.m. Friday in the first-degree murder trial Schlitter, 25. Schlitter is also charged with child endangerment resulting in death. Kamryn died from the severe head injury March 28, 2010.
Schlitter's ex-girlfriend Amy Parmer, 29, of Hiawatha, is also charged in Kamryn's death with first-degree murder and child endangerment resulting in death. Her trial is Jan. 14.
The trial started more than a week ago and the defense is expected to start its case next week.
Follow Gazette Reporter Trish Mehaffey's live coverage from the courtroom.
Nashelsky said Kamryn died of blunt force trauma to the head. He couldn't identify the blunt force object but said it could be hands of another, punching her, or someone may have held her arms and legs and swung her body into another surface, or someone held her body and pushed her into another surface.
Nashelsky said there were two separate trauma events, an older one possibly weeks before March 21, 2010 and the recent injury occurred within six hours of the 911 call.
Tom Gaul, Schlitter's attorney, on cross asked couldn't it be closer to the 911 call.
Nashelsky said he could say within minutes to six hours of the 911 call based on the injury. He couldn't be more specific than that.
The timing of second injury is important because Schlitter wasn't with Kamryn when she became unresponsive and started posturing – her muscles tensed up. He left her with Parmer about 5 p.m. and the incident happened after 7 p.m.
The prosecution wants to show that Schlitter inflicted the final injury and Gaul wants to show it was Parmer.
Dr. Nasreen Syed, associate professor of ophthalmology and pathology at UIHC, who examined Kamryn's eyes for the autopsy, testified the multiple retinal hemorrhages were consistent with traumatic injury.
"It would take a violent movement of the head," Syed said. "An acceleration and deceleration of the head."
First Assistant Linn County Attorney Nick Maybanks asked if handling a child Kamryn's age like this would be considered normal.
"It would be alarming," Syed said.
Syed agreed with Nashelsky that Kamryn would immediately display abnormalities like visual impairment and severe cognitive functioning.
Schlitter, who's voice sounded like he was tearing up and crying a few times during the recorded interview, said Kamryn's personality had changed some after she was sick. She's clingy and doesn't want to play.
The day she was taken to the hospital he and Kamryn watched television and she kept following him around, Schlitter said in the recording. She cried a lot and was "just really whiny." She slept for three hours and didn't eat much.
Schlitter in the recording said the day before "she was like her happy self." She was dancing and they played together.
Schlitter told the investigator about talking to DHS after daycare workers reported seeing bruises and make-up on Kamryn March 16, 2010. He said the bruises on her cheeks were so "faint" that he couldn't see them.
He didn't know how she got the forehead bruise but explained that Kamyn was sleeping on crib mattress that was on the floor and she may have hit her head on a computer table or desk. Kamryn also got into the closet one night and a fold up playpen fell on her head.
In other testimony, Timothy Sprous, Parmer's former boyfriend, said after a night of drinking in April 2011 she became emotional and talked about the death of an 18-month-old. She didn't mention a name at first but eventually said it was Kamryn Schlitter.
Sprous said Parmer warned him he didn't want to get involved with her because she took the child's life. She said she was going to lose her children and Kamryn's mother will never see her child again.