By Jeff Lehr
Globe Staff Writer
Kristina Ann Grannis was hiding in a closet inside the apartment when Aurora police arrived at the scene of a domestic disturbance.
Officers noted that her speech was slurred and she appeared to be drunk. She denied knowledge of any injury to her 3-month-old son.
But another woman outside the apartment in Aurora on March 24, 2003, told officers that Grannis and her boyfriend, Jacques Lucien Vincilione, had argued over injuries to Lucien Grannis Vincilione, and that Vincilione had taken the boy to the hospital.
At the emergency room of Mercy Aurora Community Hospital, a doctor told police Sgt. Jay Jastal that the boy was brought to the hospital by his father with bruises on both sides of his head, blood in his ears and numerous scratches over his body. A CT scan revealed a subarachnoid hematoma - bleeding on the baby's brain - necessitating a trip to a Springfield hospital.
The father told Jastal that he had left the apartment around noon and had returned at 6 p.m. to find the baby in that condition. He told Jastal that the couple's 2-month-old daughter had died in December 2001 at their home in Miami, Okla., and that the death had been ruled a case of sudden infant death syndrome.
But, Vincilione told Jastal, he always suspected that Grannis had contributed to the baby's death, and he said another child had been taken away from her in Barry County in Missouri before that, according to a probable-cause affidavit filed by police to support a charge of first-degree assault filed against Grannis for the injuries to her son in Aurora.
The affidavit filed in March 2003 in Lawrence County preceded by more than three years a first-degree murder charge filed this week against Grannis, 29, in Ottawa County, Okla., in connection with the death of 11-week-old Jacqueline Ann Vincilione on Dec. 30, 2001.
Jacques Vincilione, 35, has been charged with being an accessory to murder for allegedly helping Grannis cover up the truth and pass the baby's death off as a crib death.
Vincilione apparently failed to tell Aurora police at that time what he would tell a Miami police detective in December 2005, after Grannis finally entered a plea of guilty to the assault on her son in Aurora.
He and Grannis told Miami police the night the baby girl died that he had found her not breathing in her crib. He told police that she was lying with her face against a bumper pad and suggested that she must have rolled into that position.
"Based on this statement, I suspected something contributed to the death of Jacqueline because Jacqueline would not be able to roll over on her own at 11 weeks of age," Miami police Detective Todd Chenoweth wrote in an affidavit filed this week to support the charges in Oklahoma.
But police had no evidence of foul play, and the couple moved away from Miami a short time after the baby's funeral.
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Oklahoma had never ruled the case a SIDS death. The doctor who conducted the autopsy listed the manner of death as "unknown." The medical examiner's office recently changed that to homicide and listed the probable cause of death as suffocation based on alleged confessions obtained from Vincilione and Grannis by Chenoweth on Dec. 16.
Vincilione reportedly told Chenoweth that he had lied to police initially. He said he actually found the baby girl dead, face down on a couch in their home and not in the crib. According to Chenoweth's affidavit, Vincilione said he knew Grannis had left her there because she was wrapped in a blanket in a manner that Grannis liked to wrap her.
He reportedly told the detective that he picked up the girl and carried her to a bedroom, where he called Grannis a murderer before placing the baby in her crib.
Court documents indicate that Chenoweth used what Vincilione told him to pry an alleged confession from Grannis the same day last December. At the time, she was in the Lawrence County Jail awaiting sentencing for her assault conviction.
Grannis reportedly told Chenoweth that Jacqueline had been crying all day, and nothing was working to get her to stop. Grannis said she had not slept for days, and was "dead tired" and frustrated with her daughter. Needing a break from her, she laid the girl down on the couch. Jacqueline continued to cry, and Grannis picked her back up when all of a sudden she "snapped," she reportedly told Chenoweth.
She allegedly put the baby face down on a couch cushion and, placing her hand at the back of the baby's head, forced her face into the seat cushion until the baby ceased to move.
Grannis reportedly said she picked the child back up after she had suffocated her, and that the infant appeared to her to be sleeping. She laid her back down on the couch where Vincilione would find her and went to her bed to sleep.
Grannis was sentenced to 18 years in prison for the assault on her son.
Robert George, Lawrence County prosecutor, said there was reason to believe she had thrown the infant boy against a wall. George said that during the course of the investigation in Lawrence County, investigators learned that two other children had been taken from Grannis by the state's child-welfare system while she was living in Barry County before moving to Oklahoma.
The probable-cause affidavit filed in the Lawrence County case states that Vincilione told Aurora police that a child had been taken away from Grannis in Barry County.
Eddie Wyant, district attorney in Ottawa County, said his office is aware of previous allegations against Grannis. Wyant said she has had five children - none of whom are in her custody.
Wyant said he could not detail previous incidents in Barry County because records of the Children's Division of the Missouri Department of Social Services are confidential and not public.
Wyant said there are a number of reasons why Grannis and Vincilione were not charged for several months after they reportedly had confessed. She was not sentenced in the Lawrence County case until February, and Oklahoma wanted to wait until after she had been sentenced and her period to file a motion of an intent to appeal had passed.
He said the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation also was asked to look into her history with her older children, and that investigation was not concluded until a little more than a week ago.
Eddie Wyant, district attorney in Ottawa County, said an alleged pattern of abuse could play a role in whether he decides to seek the death penalty against Kristina Ann Grannis. He said that alleged history and "the heinous, atrocious and cruel manner" of her daughter's death in Miami could be factors in his decision.
By Jeff Lehr
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