The trial continues for a man charged with murder in the death of a Marion child in 2012.
Wednesday marked the third day in the trial of Christopher Michael Edwards of Marion, currently facing felony child abuse and murder charges in the death of 20-month-old Lily Anne Kerr, who was pronounced dead on Nov. 2, 2012 after suffering severe head trauma in her home on Broad Street.
The jury, comprised of seven men and seven women (12 official and two alternates), were presented opening arguments by both the state and defense.
“She (Lily) was abused and she was killed,” said prosecutor Kent Brown. “The evidence in this case will lead you to this conclusion.”
Representing Edwards, defense attorney Vincent Rabil called the state’s remarks “insensitive” and referenced the defendant’s background in the military – with post-traumatic stress disorder and outbursts – and history of concussions, blackouts and prior self-medication as reasons why the suspect that he could not remember events in question and that other mitigating factors could have contributed to her death.
“In every case, there are two sides,” said Rabil. “Every coin has a flip side and I’m going to present why that’s the case.”
The state’s first witness Wednesday was Lily’s grandmother, Anne Lombardi, who described how Edwards and her daughter, Kaitlin Kerr, met in 2012.
“She (Kaitlin) had just moved from Florida to Marion and I had called him (Edwards) to install the floor to her home,” said Lombardi. “It was him and another guy with long hair. I think he made the move to go see her again and he got her number. It turned into a dating relationship, to the point where he had moved in with her, between middle to late July.”
According to Lombardi, the relationship between Edwards, Kerr and Lily was always pleasant, saying that she never saw him lose his temper in person or suspected anything unusual.
During cross-examination, Rabil questioned if Lily had any medical conditions or sustained any injuries prior to the night of Oct. 30. Among the conditions cited by Rabil was diabetes, as Lombardi, Kerr and her now- 11-year-old son were all previously diagnosed.
“Sometimes it skips a generation,” said Lombardi. “We never saw any signs, as far as I know.”
Rabil also questioned Lombardi if she had been aware of Edwards’ multiple tours in the military.
“I knew he was in the military, but nothing was ever discussed about it,” said Lombardi.
After Lombardi left the stand, the state called Kerr, the child’s mother, who elaborated on her relationship with the defendant and stated that, more often than not, there were no significant issues outside of money or employment to raise alarm.
“I knew that he drank, I knew that he smoked weed or Spice,” said Kerr. “When he did, he was more relaxed and calm. It always took the edge off.”
Kerr also echoed her mother’s statements, calling Lily “easy-peasy,” very attached and saying that she never had any issues, during or after birth, with the child.
“I could literally take her anywhere with me,” said Kerr.
After describing the layout of the house she, Lily and Edwards were staying in on Broad Street, Kerr went into detail about what happened on Oct. 30.
“She was with my mom’s the night before, because she’d been with her dad that week,” Kerr began, “and I had to go to work early for a meeting before I started my shift that night. She came home that morning, I laid her down for a nap and I whispered, ‘Goodbye’ through her bedroom door.”
Edwards, said Kerr, had been home with her that day and was left in charge to take care of the child. This was his first time, outside Kerr’s occasional visits to the adjacent grocery store, that he had been alone with Lily for longer than a 20-minute period, according to testimony.
Kerr clocked in to work at Denny’s restaurant in Black Mountain at 2 p.m. that day, making periodic phone calls to check in.
“I called about three or four times, and each time he said that everything was fine,” said Kerr. “On the last call around 10:45, I said I was coming home and he told me that she was vomiting.”
Both Kerr and Lombardi stated that Lily had not shown signs of sickness or injured herself while she was in their care between the night of Oct. 29 and the morning of Oct. 30.
“When I got home, Chris showed me the bathroom to where she had vomited,” said Kerr, “and when I went to check on her, her leg kept kicking, very back and forth like she had been having a nightmare. I checked back on her again and that time she was just a ragdoll. I took off her diaper and tried to wake her with water, putting compression on her chest, and she wouldn’t respond. I checked her eyes and they were just cloudy.”
Edwards’ demeanor, said Kerr, went back and forth from “quiet and standing there” to “kind of freaking out.”
Kerr and Lombardi both confirmed in their testimony that Lombardi was called after Lily was found unresponsive, before Kerr notified 911. The child was taken to McDowell Hospital and transferred to Mission Hospital’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, where, after dying and coming back to life on Nov. 1, she was officially pronounced dead on Nov. 2.
Testimony continues on Thursday.