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Doctor in Albany man's trial testifies that toddler's injuries were life-threatening

Special to the Union Leader

January 24. 2013 8:59PM

OSSIPEE - The prosecutor and defense attorney in the felony child assault case against an Albany man laid out two different views of the trial to jurors during opening statements.

Prosecutor and Deputy County Attorney Susan Boone said on Thursday that while the state by no means claims the mother of the three young boys in the case is "mother of the year," it was Justin Roy, 34, who, in a rage induced by various stressors, caused near life-threatening injuries to his former girlfriend's 2½-year-old son, Strider, and second-degree injuries to his 7-year-old brother, Zander.

Boone told the jury to expect to hear evidence that Roy kicked Strider with a steel-toed boot while the boy was being sent to bed for not eating his supper. She said Roy put Strider in a dog crate outdoors in temperatures similar to this week's cold snap, dressed only in a T-shirt and pajama bottoms.

"You will hear that because this little boy got out of bed and tried to eat some of his supper, the defendant felt he had to be punished for that . the most serious crimes happened after that, when the defendant decided to take Strider out of a warm bed, when it was 2 degrees outside, and bring (the child) to the shed for several hours in the middle of the night without the mother's permission, without any good reason," she said.

"You'll hear that the shed was heated at the time, but it was certainly not the place a 2½-year-old boy to be spending the night," she said. She said that when Strider's mother, Heather Downs, went out to the shed about 1:30 a.m., that Roy pushed her away, locked the door and covered the windows with shirts from the inside. "He tells her he brought him out there in the middle of the night to teach him to pee like a man," Boone said in her opening statement.

Boone said shortly after a second visit from the mother about 4 a.m., Roy rushed Strider, who at that point was wearing only a diaper, back into bed in the house. He does not let Heather take him in . and tucks him into bed before his mother could see any injuries."

Boone told the jury they would no doubt wonder what kind of mother lets her child be placed in a shed in any weather; how she delayed in bringing Strider to the hospital; and how she called first to ask if the police had to be involved, as the injuries were not accidental. Boone said Downs asked the hospital how police involvement might affect her public assistance payments.

While some testimony about Downs may anger jurors, "this trial is not about her failure to protect her children," Boone said, adding that her behavior is no defense of the defendant's conduct.

She said the jury has to piece the evidence together and after jurors have heard all the evidence to return a guilty verdict.

Public Defender Wade Harwood said his client did not beat the child and cast aspersions on Heather Downs' credibility regarding her inconsistent statements to police.

"Justin Roy is not guilty," said Harwood in opening statements to the 14-member jury hearing the case in Carroll County Superior Court.

Harwood said while there was no question Strider suffered serious injuries, that it was not Justin who "punched or kicked" Strider, but rather Heather Downs.

"The evidence will show that on Dec. 19, Heather Downs was trying to cover her tracks," Harwood said.

Downs, who will testify during the trial, packed the boys into her van and then made several stops before bringing the children to her mother's house and then calling Memorial Hospital in North Conway, Harwood said.

He said other witnesses, such as a friend of Roy's, will testify that he visited at 3 a.m. and didn't see Strider in the shed.

"Neither Dr. (Lawrence) Ricci nor any other medical personnel will tell you that Justin caused the injuries and Heather didn't," Harwood said. Investigators who searched the shed where Roy allegedly held and beat the child found no evidence, blood or DNA linking Roy to the boy's injuries.

"No physical evidence backs up Heather's story," said Harwood.

Witnesses for the state who took the stand included Dr. Lawrence Ricci, a specialist in child abuse and trauma who examined and treated Strider at the Barbara Bush Children's Hospital at the Maine Medical Center in Portland, Maine.

A series of photographs of Strider's injuries taken at the hospital were accepted into evidence after defense motions were overruled, and then shown to the jury. They showed the battered, bruised and bandaged body of Strider, who lost half of his blood supply and who would have died if not for the "heroic" efforts of the doctors at Memorial Hospital in North Conway, Ricci testified.

Strider was taken by helicopter from Memorial Hospital to the Medical Center in Maine as his injuries were so serious.

Ricci, upon questioning from both sides, said that there was no way the most serious injures could have occurred accidentally, but rather happened as a result of severe blunt trauma, such as by punching or kicking.

When asked by the defense, Ricci could not tell what size fist or foot would have caused the injuries and agreed the injuries could have been inflicted over a short period of time.

Strider suffered life-threatening injuries to his pancreas, a tear in the bowel, which caused bowel contents to spill into the abdomen, and cuts and bruises to other parts of his body, including face, ear, abdomen and legs, Ricci said.

The trial resumes Friday at 10 a.m. in Carroll County Superior Court.

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