State Medical Examiner Cameron Grey testified Monday that he positively identified the decomposed body found wrapped in a bundle in a Cache county marsh as being 3-month old Steven Roy James - a claim that may undermine defense attorneys' claim that the body was not that of the James boy.
The tiny corpse "was a body somebody wanted never found," Grey added during the first-degree murder trial of the boy's father, Steven Ray James, in 3rd District Court.Grey's testimony is inconsistent with an earlier contention from James's attorneys that the body may not be that the James baby. However, during cross-examination of Grey, defense attorney Robert Gutke suggested another theory - the baby may have been the victim of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome - an unexplained cause of death in children under age one.
But Grey rebutted that theory, testifying that he determined the "matter of death as homicide" because parents of children who die of SIDS seek consolation in their grief, but do not wrap a child in a bundle weighted with five large rocks to conceal the child. "The manner the body was disposed of points to homicide," the medical examiner said.
At the time Grey performed an autopsy on the body discovered by duck hunters Oct. 11, 1986, near the Bear River, the identity of the body was unknown. Grey said he determined the identity by taking footprints.
When asked if there was enough skin on the decomposed body to make a positive identification, Grey said there was sufficient skin to form an identifiable crease pattern in the footprint.
The extensive decomposition of the body made it impossible to determine the precise cause of death. But the doctor ruled out severe beating, stabbing or gun wounds. Autopsy results show the child could have died of suffocation, strangulation, shaking of the head or drowning. From the identifiable injuries, it is not impossible the child could have died from SIDS, but unlikely because the body was wrapped in a mattress cover, tied with electrical cord, then placed in a river, Grey testified.
On Aug. 26, 1986, when James reported that his son had been kidnapped from his car while he was shopping at a Logan drugstore, James described his child to police as wearing a blue T-shirt, a diaper and wrapped in a striped baby blanket.
On the witness stand Monday, Grey identified the blue T-shirt and diaper the decomposed baby was wearing and the striped blanket he was wrapped in when Grey performed the autopsy.
In earlier testimony, the child's mother, Victoria DeLeon, identified the same items of evidence that Grey identified Monday as belonging to her son. She testified that the baby had appeared to have been beaten, but James explained injuries as being caused by "accidents."
In the fourth day of trial, prosecutors continue to build their case against James who faces possible life in prison. While James is charged with first-degree homicide, prosecutors have agreed not to seek the death penalty.
Prosecutors contend that James murdered his son because he was jealous of the attention DeLeon paid her first-born son. They allege James wrapped the baby in a mattress cover that can be identified as belonging to James, then disposed of the body in the river.
Defense attorneys argue someone may have framed James by stealing the mattress cover to wrap the murdered baby.
The trial is expected to continue through Thursday.