By Liz Shepherd
COLUMBIA CITY — Five witnesses testified in the third 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 Wednesday, July 29, by calling five witnesses, the first being Whitley County Sheriff’s Deputy Brandon Smith.
In his testimony, Smith said he was the first responder on scene and that he attempted to make contact with someone at the residence’s front door. However, he was unable to make any contact and checked the other doors of the residence; all of the doors were locked. He later saw Kincaid outside of the residence holding Emma. At that time, Kincaid told Smith she had laid Emma down when she heard Emma cough at some point and noticed her foaming at the mouth. According to Smith, Kincaid did not indicate that Emma had been in an accident or suffered any head trauma.
Sheryl Sarrazin, a Parkview Whitley paramedic, was the state’s next witness. Sarrazin said she was the first medic on scene. Upon physical observation, Sarrazin said Emma was not breathing on her own but had good pulses. Kincaid did not tell any medics about possible head trauma or injuries.
Whitley County Prosecutor Daniel Sigler Jr. asked how medics would have treated Emma had they known there was possible head trauma. Sarrazin said if medics had knowledge of any potential fall or internal head injuries, Emma would have been transported to Parkview Fort Wayne instead of Parkview Whitley.
In cross-examination, Defense Attorney Zach Baber asked Sarrazin if she observed any physical aspects that would have led her to think Emma was abused. Sarrazin said she did not and that she initially thought Kincaid was Emma’s mother due to her crying and showing distress.
Jurors asked Sarrazin if there were any noticeable signs of Emma having a seizure and if she saw any other children while at the residence. Sarrazin said there were no signs of a seizure and that she did not see any other children because medics did not enter the home.
The next witness called for testimony was Indiana State Police Detective Andrew Mills, who helped secure the scene where the incident occurred and also interviewed Kincaid on several occasions.
Mills said he was contacted by Whitley County Sheriff’s Detective Sergeant William Brice to help secure Kincaid’s home in case a crime had occurred. Mills said he spoke with Kincaid and her husband and received permission to take photographs of the residence.
In cross-examination, Mills said that in interviews with her, Kincaid said she considered Emma like one of her own children and consented to being interviewed.
Jurors asked Mills if any items were taken from the home at that time and if Kincaid was notified that she was being recorded. Mills said he couldn’t recall any items being taken and that he did not notify Kincaid that the interview was recorded because of Indiana’s one-party consent law.
Brice was then called back to the stand for further testimony. In his statement, Brice discussed officers’ initial investigation of the incident and interviews with Kincaid. Brice also talked with Dr. Chandrashekhar Yalamanchali, a pediatric critical care physician who helped treat Emma. Yalamanchali told Brice that Emma sustained a severe injury with significant force.
Jurors heard a two-hour video interview from April 13, 2018, between Brice and Kincaid. In the video, Brice asks Kincaid for a timeline of events to determine what happened. Kincaid said that when Emma went limp, “I was shaking her and screaming at her.”
Kincaid also said in the interview that Emma had fallen two days prior and sustained minor injuries to her face. When asked if she ever got angry with Emma, Kincaid said, “Absolutely not. She’s the best.”
In testimony, Brice also said that Dr. Yalamanchali determined that an object could not have been used to cause Emma’s injuries.
Brice said in total, he had heard five different stories from Kincaid about what had happened: that nothing happened; that Kincaid dropped Emma on a carpeted surface; that Kincaid dropped Emma on concrete; that a dog knocked Emma off of a short wall; and that Kincaid laid Emma down as hard as she could.
During cross-examination, the defense played the 911 call Kincaid made when she found Emma unresponsive. In the call, Kincaid sounds emotional and is heard saying Emma’s name multiple times. Defense also focused on Kincaid’s cooperativeness with law enforcement, noting that she agreed to completing a polygraph test and doing interviews.
Brice was also questioned by Sigler about taking a re-enactment doll to Kincaid’s residence and asking her to recreate what happened when Emma fell onto a concrete surface. Brice said Kincaid became emotional and was not able to demonstrate what happened with the doll.
The final witness the state called to the stand for testimony was Indiana State Police Detective Michael Collins. Collins talked about the polygraph tests he gave Kincaid and elaborated on what the test consisted of. In his statement to the jury, Collins said that Kincaid was deceptive and not truthful in answering four key questions: Did she cause injury to Emma? Did she cause injury to Emma while in her home? Did she know for sure how Emma was injured? Did she know for sure how Emma received her injury? Kincaid answered “no” to all four questions.
Trial proceedings will continue at 8 a.m. Thursday, July 30.