Prosecutors wrap up case against Elwood man charged with killing toddler
BY JANET LUNDQUIST email@example.com December 17, 2012 1:54PM
Updated: January 19, 2013 6:15AM
Prosecutors have rested their case against an Elwood man accused of killing his fiancee’s 18-month-old daughter.
Lee K. Ponshe, 29, is accused of inflicting the fatal injuries on his fiancee’s daughter after she woke in the early morning of April 15, 2009.
Ponshe was charged with murder for the death of Halli R. Burton, the daughter of a woman he met on an Internet dating website and who had moved into his home days before.
He was engaged to Jessi Dunlap of White Hall, Ill., but Ponshe was not the baby’s father.
While the toddler appeared to be fine the day after she was beaten, her heart stopped during an evening nap, prosecutors said. A doctor testified that the girl’s brain had been gradually swelling since she was hit, which eventually killed her.
Defense attorneys Monday called a forensic pathologist to give his opinion on Halli’s injuries.
Dr. Larry Blum, who testified this summer in both the Drew Peterson and Christopher Vaughn murder trials, said Monday he could not determine whether the girl was a murder victim. Blum said he reviewed the case and did not feel qualified to render an opinion.
Under questioning by Ponshe’s attorney, Blum said the bruises to Burton’s head could have been caused by something other than a fist.
Under cross-examination by prosecutors, Blum said he did not think the bruises and fatal head trauma would have resulted from a fall into a crawlspace or by running into the tailgate of a pickup truck, both of which happened the day Halli and her mother moved into Ponshe’s home.
Blum said he would have referred the case to a pediatric forensic neuropathologist, such as Dr. Lucy B. Rorke-Adams, a senior neuropathologist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, who testified in the trial last week.
Autopsy photos show bruises covering the toddler’s scalp, some larger and deeper than others. Her spinal cord was also bruised near her neck and her lower back.
Rorke-Adams testified Burton was most likely a victim of physical abuse.
Defense attorneys called a second doctor, neuropathologist Jamie Jacobsohn, who said he disagreed with Rorke-Adams opinion, and said he saw no trauma to Burton’s brain from looking at the autopsy photos.
Jacobsohn said he had no opinion on what caused the bruises on Burton’s head.
The trial is scheduled to continue Tuesday.