Forensic pathologist says girl’s injuries caused by accidental fall in child-abuse trial

March 29, 2019

The trial of a gang member accused of assaulting a 2-year-old girl in 2016 continued Thursday in Spokane County Superior Court as a forensic pathologist testified that the injuries the girl suffered were clearly the result of a fall.

Dr. Carl Wigren, a forensic pathologist hired by the defense, said he reviewed more than 250 pages of police reports, medical records, photos and videos of the injuries before his testimony in the trial of Cedric E. Burton.

Wigren testified the girl’s injuries were caused from a fall out of a van, which the defense argued was accidental. The fall was caught on tape at the Econo Lodge Inn, 1503 S. Rustle Road, on Oct. 29, 2016. Burton opened the sliding van door and the girl fell headfirst onto the pavement, a fall of about 3 1/2 feet, Wigren said.

Injuries included cuts on her forehead, two broken arms, a broken femur, a bruised elbow, one bruised ear, a bruised jaw and cuts on the lip.

“I believe all the injuries here were the result of the fall,” said Wigren. “It’s self-explanatory. I’m actually surprised she didn’t get a fracture of the skull.”

Two of the more minor injuries – bruising on the girl’s buttocks and behind one of her ears – could not be likely explained by the fall, Wigren said.

Prosecutor Eugene Cruz argued the facial bruising and cuts were caused days earlier, which was unconfirmed by Superior Court Judge Julie McKay and unknown to the court.

Cruz said a picture timestamped two days prior to the fall showed the head injuries on the girl.

“You now know that those injuries predate Oct. 29,” Cruz said.

The most debated injury was the girl’s femur fracture.

Wigren argued the fracture was caused by her leg striking the running board of the car mid-fall – a claim that conflicted with information by two other doctors who previously testified, claiming the fracture was caused by a twisting motion.

The girl’s sister, who accompanied them in the van on a trip to a store, said Burton was “spinning around” her sister’s leg. Cruz argued the girl’s leg was already broken before Burton opened the car door.

Wigren acknowledged there was some twisting action, but viewed the fracture as the kind caused by an impact.

Cruz alleged Burton backed away from the girl after he opened the van door and she began to fall out of the car.

He also raised questions against Wigren, inferring his specialty was working with cadavers and not live humans and was being paid thousands of dollars by defense attorney John Stine.

Burton told police conflicting stories of the cause of her injuries.

The case is being heard without a jury, and Judge McKay will make a ruling on April 11.