Former local and state law officers testified in court Thursday in the trial of Christopher Michael Edwards, charged in the death of 20-month-old Lily Anne Kerr in 2012.
Retired Marion Police Detective Lt. Scott Spratt took the stand to recollect how the agency was notified of the incident in October 2012 and evidence gathered when searching the house.
“I received a call from a patrol sergeant in Buncombe County that afternoon on the 31st,” said Spratt. “We received permission to look inside the house to examine for signs of potential child abuse.”
The day prior on Oct. 30, 27-year-old Edwards, the live-in boyfriend of Kaitlin Kerr of Marion, had been left to care for Kerr’s 20-month-old daughter, Lily.
The state presented pictures to Spratt and members of the jury related to evidence gathered during the search, with substantial focus on a trash can inside Kerr’s kitchen that contained a napkin with vomit and a pin – consistent with puncture wounds reportedly found on Lily’s body upon examination - as well as laundry found inside a washing machine with vomit and food residue.
During cross-examination, defense attorney Vince Rabil questioned the validity of the pin featured in the images, saying that since it had not been analyzed by the state crime lab for blood or skin tissue, it would be considered speculation to assume it would be used on the child. Additionally, Rabil cited Kerr’s testimony on Wednesday, saying that she had been making an owl costume for Lily on that day for Halloween, using pins similar to what was found in the trash.
Spratt confirmed on the stand that while this pin and another found in Lily’s bedroom had been submitted for analysis to the lab, they were both returned unanalyzed.
“Looking at this pin, there’s no observable material on it. Because this analysis wasn’t done at the state crime lab, we have no way of knowing what’s on it, so it would be a matter of pure speculation that that pin was used to make any mark on Lily’s body,” said Rabil.
Afterwards, retired NC State Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Van Williams testified, briefly addressing his involvement in assisting Spratt and Marion P.D. detectives with interviewing Edwards.
After the mid-day recess, the court was presented two interviews performed by Williams, Spratt and Detective Angie Fineberg of the Marion Police Department, conducted before and after Edwards’ arrest.
During the first interview, conducted by Williams and Spratt at the SBI office in Asheville, Edwards stressed at multiple points that Lily had been in good condition prior to her vomiting, did not cry during the day and had only fallen one time in his care when the two were outside playing with Kerr’s dog.
“I was outside with a cigarette, she was playing with the dog and fell, but I don’t remember her hitting her head,” said Edwards on the recording.
“Is there a chance she was crying and caused herself to throw up?” said Spratt.
“I mean, it’s possible, but I didn’t hear her cry,” said Edwards.
“It’s not looking good for the kid,” said Spratt. “It’s not. We need to find something out. They (medical examiners) are asking us a lot of questions and we’re trying to find answers, and the closest thing to an answer is you.”
Later in the interview, Edwards clarified that Lily did in fact hit her head twice after he had cleaned the child and was attempting to get her pajamas.
“I put her to bed around 7,” said Edwards, “then about an hour later, I went in to go check on her and saw that she had puked. I gave her a bath, cleaned her face and hair, put her back, put lotion on her, turned to get her pajamas and saw that she’d spilled lotion everywhere. I grabbed her left arm and popped her on the butt a few times. On the third time, she slipped out of my hand and hit the bedroom door – she hit the top of her head – and then she hit her forehead on the hardwood floor. I picked her up immediately and put her to bed and she went to sleep.”
In a police interview with Fineberg at the Marion Police Department, conducted after Edwards’ arrest, Edwards again clarified that Lily hit her head twice after he had cleaned her for vomit. Fineberg then asked if Edwards had attempted to wake her up with a pin, as referenced earlier in Spratt’s testimony. Edwards denied that he did.
By the end of the interview, the detective clarified to Edwards that he was, at that point, facing charges for child abuse, with the possibility of additional charges pending on the condition of the child.
Testimony continues on Friday.