By Jeff Lehr
NEOSHO, Mo. —
A doctor testified Tuesday that a purported fall from a toy box could not explain the injuries suffered four months ago by the 11-month-old son of Ashley Arnett while he was left in the care of her boyfriend, Chavis Burgess.
The testimony of the doctor and a sheriff’s investigator led Associate Judge Gregory Stremel to order Burgess, 19, bound over for trial on a felony count of child abuse at the conclusion of a preliminary hearing in Newton County Circuit Court.
The boy, identified in court records only by the initials “C.A.,” was taken to Freeman Hospital West in Joplin on Oct. 7 of last year with what appeared to be multiple injuries, including a skull fracture at the back of his head. He later was transferred to Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City.
Detective Mike Barnett said he contacted the defendant at the hospital in Joplin and learned that the injuries were incurred in the child’s home near Seneca. He said Burgess told him that the boy had fallen off his toy box.
“According to Mr. Burgess, he was the only one in the home besides the child when the child was hurt,” the detective said.
Barnett said the hospital staff informed him that the child had bruising to the right side of his face, a knot and bruising on his forehead, and the fracture at the back of his head. He said Burgess never offered any explanation as to how the child suffered injuries to multiple sides of the head from a fall.
The investigator said he later went to the residence and measured the height of the toy box at 16 inches. He acknowledged on cross-examination by public defender Kelly Duckering that toys were strewn about, and that the child’s head could have struck a wall near the toy box in addition to the floor.
Dr. James Anderst, director of the child abuse and neglect division of the Kansas City hospital, told the court that the child actually showed bruising of both ears as well as injuries to the front and back of his neck. He said there was evidence that he had suffered “several significant blows” to the head, and those injuries could not be explained by a fall.
He said doctors also found an older, healing fracture of the radius bone in one of the child’s arms and two burn marks on his body that were explained to the hospital staff as having been caused by sparklers on the Fourth of July. A probable-cause affidavit states that doctors suspect that a scar on the boy’s buttocks was caused by a cigarette burn.
THE INITIAL APPEARANCE of Chavis Burgess in a trial division of Newton County Circuit Court is set for March 1.