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Former state medical examiner takes stand

The doctor who performed the autopsy on the body of 10-week-old McKenzie Hammond said a tear on her lip, bruises around her mouth and broken blood capillaries around her eyes and mouth led him to believe she'd been killed by suffocation.

The doctor who performed the autopsy on the body of 10-week-old McKenzie Hammond said a tear on her lip, bruises around her mouth and broken blood capillaries around her eyes and mouth led him to believe she'd been killed by suffocation.

Dr. George Mizell, who retired as state medical examiner in December 2006, testified Thursday at the trial of Tyson Hammond, 24, who's accused of killing his daughter, McKenzie, on Oct. 8, 2005 in the family's Grand Forks apartment.

His testimony will continue today.

Jurors saw autopsy photos and X-rays of the infant's ribs Thursday afternoon. Mizell said the child had 12 fractures on 11 of her ribs. Mizell testified that the child's ribs were in various stages of healing and that the fractures were caused by squeezing.

Prosecutors allege Tyson Hammond smothered his daughter the morning of Oct. 8, 2005. Hammond has denied having anything to do with the child's death.


Defense attorney Alex Reichert has said McKenzie Hammond died of natural causes.

Not breathing

The infant was not breathing on her own and had no heartbeat when Altru paramedics arrived at the Grand Forks apartment where the child lived with her parents and older sister, according to testimony Thursday.

Matthew Hallanger, a responding paramedic, said the child was limp and her complexion was ashen when he and another paramedic took over emergency care on the child.

Former Grand Forks Police detective Ori Oksendahl, who testified Wednesday, said Tyson Hammond likely killed his daughter in frustration that built over two months with the child's constant medical conditions.

McKenzie Hammond was born prematurely after a difficult pregnancy. Doctors diagnosed the child with colic and with acid reflux disease, according to testimony in Grand Forks District Court. The infant was in and out of the hospital from birth until death, with her last medical visit the day before she died.

Preliminary autopsy results said the child's death was nonaccidental and that she likely died by "asphyxiation by suffocation," meaning someone had smothered her, rather than the child died from choking on an object or from strangulation, according to testimony.

Suspicion fell on the child's father early during the investigation. One bit of information that led investigators to Hammond was a discussion that took place the night after his daughter's death.


Grand Forks Detective Duane Simon testified Thursday that when told his daughter's body would undergo an autopsy, Hammond asked how long until autopsy results would come in and then asked whether conditions "like broken ribs" would show during an autopsy.

The question was asked before either parent knew X-rays of the child's body showed broken ribs, according to Simon's testimony.

Under cross-examination from Reichert, Simon said that he did not follow up on the question during the interview. He also said that Hammond described giving adult CPR to the child earlier in the day and that there were no follow-up questions regarding the ribs or Hammond's method of CPR.

Additional information that led to charges against Hammond include what prosecutors said was bruised lips and a tear to the upper frenula, or the small bit of tissue that connects the upper lip to the gums.

Hallanger, one of the first medics on the scene, said he noticed no trauma to the child's mouth. The only abnormality was a small bruise on the lower end of her cheek, he testified.

According to court documents, Hammond was watching cartoons with his two young daughters when McKenzie started vomiting. The child stopped breathing, and Hammond attempted CPR. He called the emergency room at Altru for assistance, and emergency personnel were dispatched to the Hammond home.

A routine X-ray after the child's death showed fractures in her ribs, according to Grand Forks County Deputy Coroner Edward Bina, who testified Thursday.

Those broken ribs signaled the need for an autopsy with the state's medical examiner, he said.


Mizell testified that there was no indication the child died from any other means, such as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or an allergic reaction to medication she was taking.

Under cross-examination, Mizell testified that he did not have the child's complete medical history until December 2005. The final autopsy report, identifying the child's manner of death as homicide, was filed that month.

Hammond was arrested and charged with murder in October 2005.

Cross-examination of Mizell's findings will continue this morning. The trial is expected to last two weeks.

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