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Tot's mom explains inconsistent statements in Roy child assault trial

Special to the Union Leader

January 30. 2013 9:55PM

OSSIPEE - Heather Downs returned to the witness box on Wednesday in Carroll County Superior Court where a defense attorney for the man accused of beating her young son in December of 2011 questioned inconsistencies in her prior statements to investigators.

Defendant Justin Roy, 34, of Albany, is standing trial on a dozen charges, the most serious are felony assault allegations that he caused life-threatening injuries to Downs' 2 1/2-year-old son, Strider Downs Skidgel, when she lived with Roy and her other two sons, 7-year-old Zander and 11-month-old Gallagher, in December of 2011. Roy is accused of keeping Strider in his work shed and at some point, causing the injuries that nearly killed the tot.

Defense Attorney Wade Harwood cross examined Downs, 33, on a number of issues: whether she was drinking the days leading up to Dec. 19, whether she told her son, Zander, to lie, and when had she first discovered bruises on Strider's abdomen.

Referring to a hard copy statement based on her interview with New Hampshire State Police Detective Jeffrey Ardini of the Major Crimes Unit, she was asked if she recalled telling the trooper that she told Zander not to talk about what happened. Downs said she couldn't recall saying that, but did recall telling Zander to be cooperative and tell the truth to child services officials after Strider was brought to Maine Medical Center.

Downs had testified she did notice a bruise on Strider's head but didn't notice the bruises on his abdomen until they arrived at her mother's house in Glen the morning of the alleged assaults.

Harwood referred to a report that stated Downs told the prosecutor she saw Strider's bruises after she packed the kids in the van.

In testimony on Tuesday and again on Wednesday, Downs testified that she was not promised any deal from the state or from law enforcement officers who interviewed her during the investigation. She told officials she did not cause Strider's injuries, and that she was testifying in the case "for my kids."

She has previously been charged with three counts of child endangerment for keeping three of the kids in a cold car on Dec. 18, 2011, and one count of felony witness tampering for allegedly telling Zander in the van on the way to her mother's house on Dec. 19, 2011, not to tell anyone what allegedly happened at the Roy residence.

In other testimony that varied from the original indictment, Downs said Roy tapped, rather than "kicked," Strider in the butt after the boy refused to eat dinner on the evening of Dec. 19. She confirmed under questioning that on the evening of Dec. 18 she saw Justin holding Strider outside warming him up as he brought him into the heated shed.

On Tuesday, the state introduced the contents of three cell phone text messages from Roy to Downs that were sent a week or two prior to the alleged assaults that landed Strider in critical condition. The profanity-filled messages insult the children.

Testimony continues Thursday in Carroll County Superior Court.

Crime, law and justice Ossipee Albany

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