KANKAKEE — Was it a medical issue or did a father kill his 19-month-old son back in April 2016?
That’s the respective arguments as the murder trial for Keon D. Stokes started Tuesday in a Kankakee County courtroom. Stokes, 29, is accused of first-degree murder in the death of Michael James Young.
Testimony continued today in front of Judge Kathy Bradshaw-Elliott. The trial is expected to go until the middle of next week.
Stokes and the child’s mother, Tamesha Young, are not married. Young, 26, said she allowed Stokes to have his son to meet family in town for his great-grandmother’s funeral.
Defense attorney Michael Reeder told jurors during his opening statement they would show that Michael had suffered seizures and his physician, Dr. Brian Oloffson, tried unsuccessfully to contact Young via phone and letters to bring the child to his office.
Young testified Michael did have an episode once or twice when he was jerking while sleeping but that those were the only times they occurred. She also said she was not contacted by Oloffson.
First Assistant State’s Attorney Joe Kosman said a witness saw Stokes shaking the boy violently in his SUV outside a Manteno business as he waited on a friend who he gave a ride there for training on April 11, 2016.
That friend, Angelo Norals, said while driving to Manteno, Michael was snoring. Norals said the child was alive Sunday afternoon when he visited Stokes.
A woman called 911 but before EMS or police arrived, Stokes said he could drive to the hospital quicker.
Stokes was found by a Kankakee police officer coming out of his apartment in the 600 block of North Entrance Avenue. The officer escorted Stokes with the child to Presence St. Mary’s Hospital, where the child was pronounced dead.
Emergency room personnel reported Michael’s body was in the early stages of rigor mortis and had a body temperature in the mid-80 degrees Fahrenheit. A person’s normal body temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Scratches also were found on Michael’s body.
Young testified he had eczema, which caused him to scratch at his skin. Scratches with scabs were on the child’s body at the time of his death.
Stokes is being represented by Reeder, of Joliet, and Robert Pervan, of Homer Glen.
Prosecuting the case are Kosman and Assistant State’s Attorney Brenda Claudio.