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Jury likely to get Hammond case today

The 12-person jury in the Tyson Hammond murder trial likely will get the case this afternoon after about seven days of testimony in District Court in Grand Forks.

The 12-person jury in the Tyson Hammond murder trial likely will get the case this afternoon after about seven days of testimony in District Court in Grand Forks.

They will have to decide what caused 11-week-old McKenzie Hammond's death in October 2005.

Was it a father beside himself with frustration, smothering the child, or did the child inhale a bit of vomit that cut off her breath, leading to her death by asphyxiation?

State prosecutors say 24-year-old Hammond suffocated his daughter Oct. 8, 2005. Defense attorney Alex Reichert says the child died of natural causes.

Hammond, prosecutors say, longed for a son and was unhappy with a second daughter. He called his daughter "Bruce," and admittedly joked that he could make a profit by selling both daughters on eBay. Hammond was frustrated, he testified, because the family was unable to make ends meet. He quit his job to go back to school.


Hammond didn't act out violently in anger toward the children, according to testimony from his now ex-wife, the child's mother, Angela Baker.

But, he didn't cry while in the emergency room after he learned his daughter was dead, the couple's friends testified.

And, he didn't want an autopsy performed on the infant. But neither did Baker. Both parents testified they didn't want to have their daughter "cut up," as would occur in an autopsy. Baker decided sooner than the father that an autopsy would be a good idea, according to her testimony, because then she would know what happened to their daughter.

Hammond agreed, he testified.

But, he showed no emotion when confronted with the fact that his daughter's ribs were fractured, according to investigators.

Hammond testified that he was in shock in the days after his daughter's death.

When asked directly if he killed his daughter, Hammond testified "No."

There has been no testimony from witnesses on the state's behalf that indicates Hammond ever hit the children or lost his temper with them. Rather, former friends of the young couple said Hammond said inappropriate things, or had an emotionless demeanor after his daughter's death. They also testified that McKenzie Hammond was fussy when her father held her.


The child was taken to medical visits, check-ups and urgent care visits because she was extremely fussy and had trouble eating, according to testimony.

On Hammond's behalf

Testimony on Hammond's behalf indicated he was good with young children.

"He gets down on their level," testified Hammond's former Boy Scout leader Robin Martin, from Bismarck.

And he continues to be called upon to watch over another friend's young daughter.

Alicen Ding, from Bismarck, testified that Hammond provides child care for her daughter.

"Her face lights up when she sees him walk in the room," Ding testified, when asked how her daughter responds to Hammond.

Baker testified that Hammond helped to take care of their two children. Her concern with his parenting ability was with how he carried the infant. Baker testified that Hammond carried the infant like he would carry "a sack of flour."


Dr. Mary Ann Sens, Grand Forks County Coroner, took the stand Wednesday. She testified that she agreed with Mizell's findings.

Sens testified that it was no surprise emergency personnel responding to the Hammonds' Grand Forks home detected no bruises or abrasions on the child's face or in her mouth. Those findings, discovered in the autopsy, support a death caused by suffocation, according to Sens' testimony.

It was unlikely, Sens testified, that those abrasions were caused when emergency personnel tried to resuscitate the child, because she's never personally seen abrasions in the mouth caused by the tools and tubes inserted in resuscitative efforts.

Those can occur, Sens testified in cross-examination.

But, there also is the question of broken ribs found after the child's death.

The fractures, prosecutors allege, are a pattern of abuse on Hammond's behalf that culminated in the smothering death of his daughter.

Dr. David Posey, a medical expert who testified for the defense, said the ribs were likely fractured during childbirth, based on the stage of healing the ribs were in.

The ribs were in the "hard-callus" stage of healing, according to testimony. The fractures were sustained between four and 12 weeks before the child died. The child was 11 weeks old at death. Posey testified that because there were no signs of blood clots on the fractures, they were likely to be on the latter end of the spectrum of healing. Sens testified that she was not comfortable aging the rib fractures.


Testimony will continue this morning, as the state calls its final rebuttal witness, a medical expert from Minneapolis.

The jury will hear instructions and closing arguments this afternoon.

Suspicion fell on Hammond early during the investigation into his daughter's death.

Early autopsy results revealed several rib fractures that were unaccounted for, according to testimony. And there were bruises on the child's face, faint signs of broken capillaries around her eyes and mouth and abrasions in her mouth that led medical examiner Dr. George Mizell to name the manner of death as homicide.

Those abrasions in the infant's mouth - inside the top and bottom lips - were likely caused by a violent thrashing movement of the child's head as she fought for breath or by a hand or pillow aggressively rubbing side to side across the infant's face, according to testimony from a second medical expert on behalf of the state.

Nadeau can be reached at (701) 780-1118, or (800) 477-6572, ext. 118; or by e-mail snadeau@gfherald.com .

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