By Ed Runyan
Joy Hodge, 29, went on trial Tuesday in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court in the death of her 15-month-old daughter, A’Nana Brantley.
Hodge faces a possible life-prison sentence if convicted of murder, felonious assault and child endangering.
Vanity Wallace, now of Columbus, who lived in the same apartment building in the Trumbull Homes as Hodge and spent much of the day Sept. 5, 2011, with her, testified about the fairly normal Labor Day activities the women were involved in that day.
Wallace, Hodge and others celebrated the holiday together that day, she said. She also saw A’Nana playing with her sisters and other children on a couch at a neighbor’s house that day laughing, “in good spirits,” apparently with no injuries.
Wallace described the several times that evening that Hodge came to her apartment and left. She was there alone about 9:30 p.m., stayed until about 10:30, then came back about 11:15, then left until about 12:30 a.m. Then the women went out together to Blue Magoo’s, an East Market Street tavern now known as the Sunset Lounge.
They stayed out for about two hours, returning home about 2:30 a.m.
The next morning, Wallace saw Hodge again about 10 a.m., and Hodge said she was going to the dentist.
At 1:10 p.m. Sept. 6, Wallace saw Hodge again. She was talking to another female friend in an animated way and saying, “A’Nana’s dead.”
Wallace went to Hodge’s apartment and into the girl’s bedroom and saw the child dead, stiff, bruised from the neck down, dried tears on her face, hands clenched.
Listening to a detective ask Hodge later about where Hodge was during the evening and hearing Hodge say she was at home convinced Wallace “something was wrong, because she was out with us,” Wallace said.
Jurors in Judge W. Wyatt McKay’s courtroom also watched a lengthy videotaped interview of Hodge talking to Warren detectives in which she says she had seen bruises on A’Nana in the afternoon Sept. 5 and at 8 a.m. Sept. 6 when the girl woke up.
But Hodge tells deputies over and over that she doesn’t know who caused the bruises.
Detective Wayne Mackey later testified that the girl died from blunt force trauma but also had a lacerated liver and other injuries.
The trial resumes this afternoon.