By Liz Shepherd
COLUMBIA CITY — Five additional witnesses testified in the second day of a jury trial for Courtney Kincaid, who is accused of severely injuring a Pierceton infant who later died from her injuries.
Kincaid, 30, Columbia City, is charged with aggravated battery, neglect of a dependent resulting in death and battery with death to a person under 14 years old. The charges stem from the death of 11-month-old Emma Grace Leeman, who died on April 13, 2018. Kincaid was Emma’s babysitter.
The state continued its case on Tuesday, July 28, by calling five witnesses, the first of which was Whitley County Sheriff’s Detective Sergeant William Brice. In court proceedings, a video interview was played where Kincaid was interviewed by Brice and Indiana State Police Detective Andrew Mills. During the 2019 interview, Brice and Mills informed Kincaid of a warrant being out for her arrest and asked her about the details of the incident. Throughout the interview, Kincaid cried during questioning.
“You’ve given us bits and pieces, but you’ve never given us the full story,” said Brice. “It’s just not making sense. We’re just trying to figure out what happened that day.”
“We’re not here to judge you or to call you a bad person,” said Mills. “We’re just trying to figure out the truth.”
“I don’t understand the battery, the neglect charges,” said Kincaid in the interview. “I took care of her (Emma). I didn’t do anything to her. I don’t understand the charges.”
Toward the beginning of the interview, Kincaid told the detectives that she was walking out the back door of her residence while holding Emma and was bumped by other children she was babysitting when she dropped Emma on a concrete patio. The detectives continued questioning Kincaid for further details, saying the sequence of events she told was not compatible with Emma’s injuries.
“I can’t give you something that didn’t happen,” said Kincaid. “I’ve told you what I could. I don’t understand how I can be charged with any of that. It doesn’t make sense. The people that know me, they know I did everything I could to protect her.”
Mills questioned Kincaid further about the incident and said her story had drastically changed from what she told him in their first interview.
“(Doctors) are telling us this isn’t a fall,” said Mills. “This was from an accelerated fall with a very hard impact.”
Kincaid then told detectives she sat Emma on a concrete block when a child shoved Emma, causing her to fall. After studying a picture of Kincaid’s back patio area, Brice estimated that it was a four-foot drop.
“That tells me they’re (doctors) going to say, ‘This is not a significant enough fall to cause the injury that it’s caused,'” said Brice. “I think you started out right when you said you really messed up that day, but this is not how this happened. I can tell you this is not how this happened. This is not what happened to Emma. All of the other stories you’ve given us did not happen.”
In her final story to detectives in the video interview, Kincaid said that Emma just kept screaming and crying that morning. She attempted to comfort and talk with Emma and said she brought the infant up to her shoulder and “then as hard as I could, just laid her on the ground.”
When asked if Emma had hit her head because of this, Kincaid said she did. She said Emma continued crying, started staring at her and eventually fell asleep. After some time had passed, Kincaid noticed that Emma was loudly snoring and foaming at the mouth.
“She was just looking at me, but there wasn’t anything there,” said Kincaid. “Her eyes were just gray.”
After this final story, the video shows Kincaid on the floor crying and hyperventilating.
Brice then answered several juror questions following the video interview. In answering those questions, Brice said Kincaid never stated that Emma was dropped off at Kincaid’s residence with injuries; that there were five or six children aside from Emma at the residence, all being age four and under; and that Kincaid has never retold the incident of laying Emma down on the ground hard.
The state’s next witness was Dr. William Young with Parkview Physicians Group. Young is the neurosurgeon who performed the craniectomy on Emma. In testimony, Young said he removed part of Emma’s skull to evacuate a blood clot but that the surgery was unsuccessful due to massive bleeding and brain swelling. According to Young, a CT scan of Emma’s injuries showed hemorrhages and evidence of swelling, as well as a large fracture.
Whitley County Prosecutor Daniel Sigler Jr. presented Young with a hypothetical situation, asking if it is possible for trauma to occur if the back of an infant’s skull is slammed against a flat surface. Young said it is possible if the force is severe enough and noted that Emma’s injuries were not consistent with a fall.
“I would have to slam a child very hard,” said Young when asked if he had the physical capabilities to cause injuries like Emma had.
Dr. Jayesh Patel, who works in pediatric intensive care with Parkview Physicians Group, was the next witness to testify. Patel was one of the on-call physicians who tended to Emma when she was brought into Parkview Hospital. Patel said that the time between when the injury occurred and when she arrived at the hospital was critical.
“It (the injury) does not happen out of nowhere,” said Patel. “Some force has to occur.”
Patel said the swelling on Emma’s brain was significant enough that she was declared brain dead.
Dr. Ralph Hicks, a pediatrician from Riley Children’s Hospital; and Dr. John Reed, a radiologist with Parkview Regional Medical Center, also testified, with each elaborating on Emma’s injuries and the head trauma she sustained.
All four doctors testified via Zoom.
Trial proceedings will continue at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, July 29, with the state expected to call more witnesses for testimony.