Murray woman ordered to stand trial in death of 4-month-old

Published: Monday, Aug. 20 2012 7:31 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — The woman recalled how her 4-month-old son stared at her as he cried and was carried away by a friend who had offered to watch him.

"He was staring right at me," Hailey Calhoun testified Monday, "like he wanted his mom, like he knew something was going to happen."

Later, a detective told her that her son was being taken to the hospital. Within days, the child was taken off of life support and pronounced dead.

"He was an amazing baby," Calhoun said. "He was great. He hardly cried. He was always happy."

The mother testified during a preliminary hearing for Jennifer Duran Martinez, 36, her former friend and her son's caregiver, who is charged with murder, a first-degree felony, in Kaysen Calhoun's death. Kaysen was unconscious when he was hospitalized Sept. 22 and died on Sept. 24.

After hearing from five witnesses, 3rd District Judge Andrew Stone ordered Martinez to stand trial on the murder charge.

Calhoun met Martinez while the two women were living at the same apartment complex in Murray. They had daughters around the same age and met through their children.

"We started talking more and more and became friends," Calhoun recalled, adding that Martinez first offered to watch Kaysen. "In front of me, I thought she was good with him. That's why I trusted her."

Martinez would watch Kaysen while Calhoun worked and sometimes overnight. Beginning Sept. 19, Calhoun said the baby boy wasn't feeling well and was fussy.

Kaysen's condition was bad enough that Calhoun said she called in sick on Sept. 22 and spent the majority of the day with the baby and Martinez. Around 4 p.m., she left to go pick up her two daughters from their grandparents' house. She planned to take Kaysen, but said Martinez assured her he was fine to stay with her.

She went to pick up her daughters and left her phone in the car, Calhoun said. When she got back to the car around 5 p.m., there were multiple missed calls from Martinez. Calhoun tried calling and they soon connected.

"(Martinez) was hysterical on the phone," Calhoun said. "I couldn't understand a word she was saying. The detective got on the phone and told me Kaysen was being taken to Intermountain Medical Center. He told me to be careful, but, you know, he's my son."

She testified that she never squeezed, hit or shook her son. It would later be determined that he had suffered broken ribs, brain injuries, a skull fracture and retinal hemorrhages in his eyes — all consistent with shaking and blunt force trauma.

"All of his injuries are explained by an abusive cause," said Dr. Karen Hansen, a pediatrician who specializes in child abuse. "Pretty much he was what we call brain dead when he first arrived."

Dr. Julie Adams, a assistant state medical examiner, ruled Kaysen's death a homicide caused by blunt force trauma to the head. She said it was "highly likely" all of the fatal injuries were caused at the same time. 

Murray police detective Kevin Johnston said he and paramedics arrived at Martinez's apartment at the same time. They tried to open the door and found it locked. When they knocked and did not get a response, they kicked in the door and found Martinez at the end of a hallway trying to perform CPR on the small child.

The paramedics grabbed the child and Johnston ran with them to the ambulance. When he returned to Martinez's apartment, the woman was on the phone.

"When I first went into the apartment, Ms. Martinez seemed distraught," Johnston testified. "(She had a) more frustrated, aggravated appearance when I came back."

Murray police officer Nathan Pentico said during three of four interviews, Martinez said Kaysen was fine but soon started spitting up blood and then became unconscious.

"Jennifer said she loved Kaysen just like a son, that she was very close to him, that she was always holding him and loving him," Pentico said.

Pentico said both Calhoun and Martinez were considered persons of interest early on in the investigation. But he said his attention shifted to Martinez during an interview at the police station when she said she was the only one with the infant in the hour and a half before his death. This stuck out to him because one doctor told him that Kaysen would have shown immediate effects from his injuries and would have died soon after they were inflicted, he said.

He told Martinez that the child would have had to sustain the fatal injuries while in her care. He said Martinez said she was bouncing Kaysen and may have bounced him too hard before "she finally admitted to me that she shook Kaysen."

He said Martinez said she shook the infant because he wouldn't stop crying and demonstrated how she held him as she shook him, which was consistent with the injuries he sustained. She said she shook the child for about five minutes.

Defense attorneys questioned why Pentico didn't mention another doctor's opinion that the injuries could have been inflicted between 9 and 11 a.m. and asked Calhoun about some text messages she sent Martinez Sept. 19 in which she said Kaysen was "driving me crazy" and that she was ready to "kill Kaysen."

"We intend to show it was not my client who caused the injury," defense attorney John West told the judge.

"I was staying stupid stuff," Calhoun explained. "I didn't mean it literally."

When asked why his client confessed if she is not guilty, West said the interview with police was "extremely long" and may have involved mental and emotional coercion.

An arraignment hearing has been set for Sept. 10.

E-mail: emorgan@desnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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