NEWTON— The jury heard from several medical and scientific experts, including the pathologist who performed Jaydon Ray Sandlin’s autopsy, in Catawba County Superior Court on Monday, kicking off the second week in the William Howard Lail III trial.
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, 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. Lail was arrested later that evening.
Witness testimony earlier last week described Kylie as quiet, filthy, and covered in burns, scabs and bruises May 3.
Dr. Kenneth Summer, a pediatrician in Hickory, examined Kylie at Frye Regional Medical Center on May 4.
“She had remarkable burns, visible from across the room,” he said on the witness stand Monday.
Kylie was admitted to the hospital overnight because social services had yet to find a placement for her.
Summer said her burns were in an unusual pattern and did not look like the majority of scald injuries he’s seen.
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.
“There were no burns on the bottom of her feet,” Summer said.
He added that was unusual, considering Kylie was supposed to have been in the tub when the scalding occurred and had exited the tub by the time Lail returned from outside.
On Friday, Kari Whisnant, who was a social worker with the Catawba County Department of Human Services at the time, testified she photographed the injuries on Kylie’s body, including apparent burns on Kylie’s face, back, left leg, head and neck, and bruising on various parts of her body.
Summer described her scabs as thicker than what he’s seen in his close to 30 years as a medical professional.
“In my opinion, these (injuries) did not fit the accidental pattern,” he said.
Pictures of Kylie’s injuries were shown to the jury again as Summer went through each, giving his medical opinion.
He testified the bruises on Kylie’s back and other parts of her body were not in the typical places he has seen on toddlers and young children.
Since Kylie’s burns were healing, Summer said it was difficult to tell what degree of burn they were, but he was able to determine the burns had to be at least second degree.
“She was definitely in pain,” he added. “Probably in a lot of pain the first few days.”
Neither Kylie nor Jaydon received official medical treatment for their burns while in Weathers and Lail’s care.
Both Lail and Weathers testified that Lail purchased hydrogen peroxide, bandages, Motrin and burn cream to treat the burns at home.
Summer also testified he’s not sure what substance caused Kylie’s burns, and it could very well have been a thicker substance like oatmeal or soup instead of water.
“She had sharp borders on her burns,” he said.
People who’ve been burned with thick substances usually have sharp borders on their burns because the substance moves slower than water, he added.
Summer said he did not know Lail’s explanation for the burns prior to examining Kylie, but when he was informed, he was “suspicious of that because of the pattern (of the burns).”
Dr. Jerri McLemore, a board certified forensic pathologist and associate professor at the Wake Forest School of Medicine, conducted Jaydon’s autopsy.
McLemore’s autopsy ruled the cause of death as “presumed drowning,” with blunt force injuries, including the burns, as contributing factors.
“Jaydon had a number of blunt force injuries,” she said.
McLemore’s autopsy found 135 to 140 individual injuries internally and externally on Jaydon, with the majority of the injuries being bruises and burns.
While there were a large amount of injuries, McLemore clarified one injury does not indicate one impact.
“One impact could cause multiple injuries,” she said. “I found 23 to 36 minimum points of impact on Jaydon.”
Jaydon had healing burns and scalding injuries at the top of his head, upper thighs and buttocks, along with scattered, smaller healing burns across his body that were all at least second-degree burns, McLemore added.
He also had bruising across his body, including his forehead, top of his head, chin, mouth and back.
Several of the areas of bruising indicated a pattern like the bruising on his forehead.
Her autopsy concluded Jaydon had two rib fractures, which could’ve been caused by CPR, and one healed rib fracture. She could not determine the age of that fracture and said she couldn’t rule out that it happened during birth.
“He had no organ damage or signs of malnourishment,” McLemore added.
When asked to explain what “presumed drowning” means, she said that conclusion was made from the discovery of watery fluid in the lungs and from what was described to her from people on the scene.
She said she knew of the drowning story Lail gave police and the fact a foamy liquid was seen coming from Jaydon’s mouth after the incident, which is consistent with drowning.
McLemore guesses Jaydon was fatigued and in pain from his injuries, fell asleep in the bathtub and drowned, but there’s no way to know for sure.
“It doesn’t take much for people to drown,” she said.
She added there was no water found in his stomach.
Based on his injuries, she said, “I would not expect this toddler to be robust.”
McLemore concluded, like Summer did with Kylie, Jaydon’s injuries did not match the scalding story Lail told investigators.
She said some of the burns were consistent with a pouring pattern, whereas the burns on Jaydon’s buttocks were not consistent with being forced to sit in hot water or dipped in hot water.
Investigators tested the water heater and water temperature at the Long View residence and found the heater set on 140 degrees.
McLemore said 140 degrees could burn a child in seconds.
Throughout her testimony, McLemore used photos and X-rays from Jaydon’s autopsy to further explain her findings to the jury.
The final witness to testify Monday was Tanisha Walker, a DNA analyst with the North Carolina State Crime Lab.
She analyzed bodily fluids found on several items and surfaces in the home and tested two items of clothing found in the bathroom.
The bodily fluids analyst found semen on the pillow investigators found on the bathroom floor.
Yet, Walker was unable to determine who the semen belonged to upon DNA analysis.
The pillow was the only item submitted to evidence containing traces of semen.
The bodily fluids analyst found the reddish stains investigators swabbed contained “chemical indicators of blood.” These stains were located behind the front door of the home on the wall and on the bathroom door and wall.
Walker concluded the blood-like substances found on those surfaces belonged to Kylie.
Swabbings from the stained mattress in the living room found DNA matching Kylie and Jaydon, but swabbings from the tub and tub drain matched only Jaydon, not Kylie.
Lail’s DNA was not found to be any of the substances or on any of the items submitted to the state crime lab for analysis.
Testimony continues Tuesday, where the state is expected to rest its case.