NEOSHO, Mo. —
An investigator testified Tuesday that 18-month-old Ada Bowman’s injuries were more severe than could be explained by the “accidents” her mother’s boyfriend acknowledged during a probe of the girl’s death.
Detective Mike Barnett of the Newton County Sheriff’s Department was the lone witness called at the preliminary hearing of Bryant L. Sykes Jr., 24, in Newton County Circuit Court.
At the conclusion of the hearing, Associate Judge Gregory Stremel ordered Sykes bound over for trial on a charge of second-degree murder in the death of the girl.
The girl died Aug. 4 at a Kansas City hospital, four days after suffering critical injuries at her family’s home in the Bykota Mobile Home Park outside Joplin.
“She died of massive trauma to both her head and torso,” Barnett told the court on direct examination by Prosecutor Jake Skouby.
The detective said that during an interview of Sykes at the sheriff’s office, the defendant described three separate incidents that had taken place in the 24 hours leading up to a 911 call for emergency medical assistance the night of July 31. Each was offered as an explanation of how the girl suffered her injuries, he said.
Barnett said Sykes told him that the first incident took place the night before the 911 call was placed. Sykes said he heard the girl crying and discovered that she had fallen out a window of their mobile home into their yard, the detective testified.
The defendant then described an incident the next day when the toddler and her siblings, ages 3 and 2, got into a bowl of dog food and made a mess, and he became angry with them. Sykes admitted picking the girl up and tossing her, Barnett said.
“She bounced off a bed and into a coffee table,” he said.
A probable-cause affidavit states that Sykes told Barnett that the girl’s abdomen began to swell, and she began acting “different.”
Barnett said a third incident that Sykes described took place a short time before the 911 call was placed. The defendant said he had set the girl on the kitchen table to help her cool off, and she had fallen and struck her head on the floor. The girl reportedly became unresponsive at that point, and Sykes told Barnett he tried to revive her.
“Did he tell you that when the child was unresponsive, he went for help?” public defender Agnes Prevendarcsik-Hoell asked the detective on cross-examination.
“He said he yelled for help,” Barnett said.
Prevendarcsik-Hoell questioned Barnett concerning who else was in the home at the time. The detective said the girl lived there with her mother, her two siblings, her maternal grandmother and Sykes, the mother’s boyfriend. The mother was asleep when Sykes said the girl fell out the window and was at the store when she fell off the table, the detective said.
Barnett said no injuries were noted on either of the other two children. The preliminary findings of an autopsy indicated that the girl’s injuries were “more severe” than any she might have suffered in the three “accidents” described by Sykes, he said.
The detective acknowledged on cross-examination that the autopsy found evidence of older bruising on the girl’s back, but he said he did not know how old those bruises were. He told the court that the mother, Gina Salazar, 22, made no admissions to investigators with respect to her daughter’s injuries.
The public defender asked if any effort was made to interview the brother and sister concerning the girl’s injuries.
“Attempts were made with the older one, but they were obviously too young to understand,” Barnett said.
JUDGE GREGORY STREMEL set Bryant Sykes’ initial appearance in a trial division of the court for Friday.