NEWTON— Defendant William Howard Lail III testified in Catawba County Superior Court on Wednesday as the first witness for the defense.
While Lail had the option not to testify in his own trial because of his Fifth Amendment rights, he decided to testify after conferring with his attorneys.
Lail is charged with one count of first-degree murder and four counts of felony child abuse. He does not face the death penalty.
He is accused of killing Jaydon Ray Sandlin, 1, and physically abusing both Jaydon and his older sister Kylie Madison Sandlin at a residence in Long View. Kylie was 3 at the time of Lail’s arrest.
Kylie and Jaydon were the children of Lail’s now ex-girlfriend, Whitney Weathers.
Weathers pleaded guilty to several felony counts of child abuse earlier this year.
On May 3, 2013, first responders arrived to a duplex in Long View to find Jaydon dead from an apparent drowning and covered in burns and bruises.
Kylie also was covered in burns and bruises.
Lail was arrested later that evening.
On Wednesday, he first answered questions from his attorney Victoria Jayne about how he met Weathers and her children, and he described to the jury his relationships with all three of them and the major events that led up to Jaydon's May 3 death.
While he did discipline the children with corporal punishment, Weathers did the majority of the punishment, he testified.
“I'm not trying to make excuses,” Lail said on multiple occasions when talking about his decision not to stop Weathers from mistreating the children and his decision not to seek professional medical help for the children after they were burned.
A week and a half prior to Jaydon’s death, Lail said Jaydon and Kylie were scalded by the running shower water after he left them alone in the tub to take the trash out.
“I didn’t realize the extent of the injuries,” Lail said, referring to when he returned inside to find Jaydon in the tub crying and Kylie at the door saying she had a “boo-boo.”
Lail testified he went to CVS Pharmacy to purchase Motrin, Tylenol, bandages and aloe lotion to treat the burns once he realized just how bad they were.
“When I realized the extent of the injuries, I apologized to the kids,” he said. “It was my fault. I left them alone.”
In cross examination from Assistant District Attorney Michael Van Buren, Van Buren asked Lail to explain why he lied to investigators multiple times at the scene of the incident and during his four-hour post-arrest interview.
“I was ashamed of what happened,” he said.
When describing to the jury how he found Jaydon dead in the bathtub, he became emotional and said it was hard for him to picture how he found the child.
Lail’s testimony will continue Thursday.
For an in-depth report about Lail’s Wednesday testimony, read Friday’s print edition of the Hickory Daily Record or visit www.hickoryrecord.com.