By Jeff Lehr
PITTSBURG, Kan. —
A judge has decided that a Pittsburg woman accused of strangling her 13-month-old son with the straps of his car safety seat should stand trial on a charge of first-degree murder.
District Judge A.J. Wachter ordered Cara M. Lloyd, 28, bound over for trial at a preliminary hearing Tuesday in Crawford County District Court in Pittsburg.
Steve Rosebrough, an agent with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, was the lone witness to testify at the continuation of a hearing that had been suspended Aug. 7 pending his availability. Rosebrough interviewed Lloyd two times after the death of her son, Cory Jones Jr., on Oct. 29 of last year at the home of a friend in Frontenac.
The KBI agent said Lloyd was quite upset when she told him two days later, during an interview at a funeral home, that she had found her son accidentally strangled in the harness of the child safety seat in which she had taken him to the friend’s home for a barbecue.
“She indicated to me the strap had gotten wrapped around her baby’s neck and he suffocated,” Rosebrough said.
He said the defendant told him that she had secured the child properly in the seat’s shoulder straps and had fastened them with its chest plate buckle. But she later checked on him in the family room of the friend’s home, and found him with one of his arms out of the harness and a strap wrapped around his neck.
Rosebrough testified that Lloyd told him her son was unresponsive and not breathing, and that she unbuckled the harness and tried to remove him from the seat but could not get him out. She then called for help to the others who were present in the home, he said.
The KBI agent said he interviewed the defendant a second time on Nov. 2 at his office because her story was not jibing with the accounts of four other adult witnesses in the home that day. One of the witnesses, Leroy Dunn, testified during the first part of the hearing on Aug. 7 that when he came to Lloyd’s assistance, he found the child with the harness strap wrapped two or three times about his neck.
Defense attorney Sam Marsh asked Rosebrough if his client’s explanation that she tried to remove the boy from the seat might explain how Dunn reported finding the harness.
“It would explain how the buckle got unbuckled,” Rosebrough said. “But it would not explain how it got wrapped around his neck three times.”
Dunn and his girlfriend, Toni Harris, accompanied Lloyd and her three boys, ages 1, 4 and 8, to the barbecue at the home of the friend, Courtney Phillips, and Phillips’ boyfriend, Jermaine Warren. The children were all in the family room while the adults were elsewhere in the house at the time of the boy’s asphyxiation, which the defendant claims to have discovered when she went to check on him.
But there was testimony Aug. 7 that Lloyd’s 4-year-old son told the Frontenac police chief that his mother put the strap around his brother’s neck and “tied it” and that she “squeezed” his nose.
Marsh called Rosebrough on Tuesday as a witness for the defense, questioning him about the alleged differences in Lloyd’s account and the accounts of the other witnesses. Marsh also questioned the agent about his and a medical examiner’s efforts to reconstruct how the harness might have gotten wrapped around the boy’s neck.
Rosebrough acknowledged that he had no previous experience in reconstructions involving child safety seat harnesses.
“I don’t know anybody that does,” he said.
On cross-examination by District Attorney Michael Gayoso, the KBI agent testified that there was evidence that the harness strap on one side of the seat had been pulled through the back of the seat and then pushed back through its slot and knotted in place.
Rosebrough said the child “could not have done that himself.”
The defendant was arraigned for trial purposes after the preliminary hearing, and the judge set a trial date of Dec. 10.
CARA LLOYD has remained in custody on a $500,000 bond since her arrest in April after a long probe of her son’s death a year ago. She was seven months’ pregnant at the time of the arrest and gave birth to a child while in custody.
THE CRAWFORD COUNTY district attorney said he cannot legally discuss the custody situation of Lloyd’s children. The deceased child’s father, Cory Jones Sr., was in jail on a drug charge at the time of the boy’s death. He currently is serving time in prison.