By Ed Runyan
Trumbull County Coroner Dr. Humphrey Germaniuk testified Thursday that the time of death of 15-month-old A’Nana Brantley was between 1:30 and 5:30 a.m. Sept. 6.
That opinion is based on the advanced stiffness of the child’s body at 1:30 p.m. when police and paramedics were called to her home on Transylvania Street Southeast. Dr. Germaniuk, the final prosecution witness, was speaking during testimony in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court.
Diane Barber, assistant prosecutor, asked Dr. Germaniuk whether it’s possible, then, that the child was still alive at 8 a.m. that day.
“Probably not,” he said.
That opinion may be relevant to the nine-man, three-woman jury that will decide the case against Joy Hodge, 29, accused of murder, felonious assault and child endangering in the child’s death. Hodge could get a life prison sentence if convicted.
Hodge told police during taped interviews shown to the jury that the child still was alive at 8 a.m. when she gave her a cup of juice, and the child smiled at her.
The trial resumes today.
Dr. Germaniuk showed photos taken during the autopsy that indicated the amount of bruising on the child’s face, thighs and back. The shape of the injuries was round, so whatever caused them also was round, he said.
The child’s liver was lacerated and filled with “pulp,” which Dr. Germaniuk said resulted from a “forceful blow” such as what a car accident victim might have from hitting the dashboard. The child’s brain was swollen, he said.
All of the child’s injuries occurred within a few minutes of her death, he said.
Earlier Thursday, Precious Stephenson, a neighbor of Hodge’s, told jurors that Hodge asked her to lie to police the day A’Nana was found dead, so she told Warren Police Detective Mike Currington she had been watching Hodge’s house late Sept. 5 and early Sept. 6 while Hodge was gone.
But a couple of weeks later, Stephenson told Currington the opposite story — that she had not watched Hodge’s house.
Stephenson said Hodge also told her she’d been “sloppy” the night in question — meaning intoxicated or high on drugs.
Stephenson’s testimony contradicted statements Hodge gave Warren Police Detective Wayne Mackey on Sept. 7, the day after A’Nana was found dead in her crib.
Jurors heard the video- taped Sept. 7 interview in which Hodge said Stephenson stayed at Hodge’s house late Sept. 5 and early Sept. 6 while Hodge went to Blue Magoo’s, a former East Market Street tavern, with several other women.
Hodge said an 18-year-old man who lived nearby “had access” to her apartment the night the girl died.
Vanity Wallace, another neighbor, testified Tuesday that she, Hodge and other women went to Blue Magoo’s for about two hours early Sept. 6 and were back home by about 2:30 a.m.
Matt Pentz, head of the Trumbull County office of the Ohio Public Defender’s Office, questioned Mackey Thursday about whether anyone from the Warren Police Department checked surveillance tapes at the Blue Magoo to determine the exact time Hodge had been at the tavern to pin down whether Hodge had been home at the time of the child’s death.
Mackey said they hadn’t because there were several witnesses with Hodge who could verify the time that the women were there.