DA Rests In Murder Trial
Defense To Begin Calling Witnesses Monday In County Court
MAYVILLE — The prosecution rested its case in the trial of a Jamestown man charged with the murder of a 16-month-old.
Tyler Perez, 35, is facing charges of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter for his alleged involvement in the death of Nayla Hodnett on April 17, 2014. It was later determined that Hodnett died as the result of blunt force trauma; an autopsy at the Erie County Medical Center determined the cause of death was a homicide.
The trial, which began Thursday, is being heard in front of Judge M. William Boller.
Michael Flaherty, first assistant district attorney, rested a day after providing his opening statements where he alleged that Perez struck Nayla Hodnett and later left her to suffer.
Chautauqua County Public Defender Ned Barone has maintained that Perez is innocent and raised questions of other possible suspects during his cross examinations of witnesses Friday.
On the night of April 16, 2014, Hodnett, a resident of 218 1/2 Newland Ave. in Jamestown, was taken by her mother Angel Hodnett to WCA Hospital’s emergency room before being transferred to Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo via Starflight for further treatment.
Before opening statements Thursday, Perez rejected a plea offer from the prosecution that would have had him plead guilty to first-degree manslaughter with a determinate sentence of 15 years in prison.
Investigators believe Perez harmed Hodnett when Angel Hodnett went to a deli and convenience store just before noon that day.
While on the stand, Angel Hodnett said her daughter appeared “tired” upon returning home. The child was put down for a nap, she said. Later, the mother attempted to bathe her daughter when a bruise on her back was found.
Melissa O’Connor, Child Protective Services supervisor, took the stand Friday to answer questions about the agency’s investigation into Hodnett’s death. CPS’ investigation was separate from the one that the Jamestown Police Department conducted. O’Connor discussed interviewing Perez on May 1 in accordance to state protocol when a child dies from a homicide.
When asked about who hurt Hodnett, O’Connor recalled from her notes that Perez said that he would have to “go to his Bible and ask God because Angel (Hodnett) did not do it.”
During cross examination, Barone questioned if any other adult had access to Hodnett leading up to her death other than Perez or the child’s mother. Barone often asked about one of Angel Hodnett’s brother, who is currently incarcerated at Chautauqua County Jail. Angel Hodnett told a CPS case worker that her sibling had access to her daughter but not during the time Hodnett was injured.
Tara Mahar, Erie County chief medical examiner, also took the stand to provide more details of the toddler’s injuries the day she was pronounced dead. Mahar noted that the severity of damage to Hodnett’s pancreas was “rare.” Previous testimony from day one of trial revealed that the child’s pancreas had “split in half.”
Generally, Mahar said pancreas injuries among children come from biking and vehicle accidents. However, it was still determined that Hodnett’s death was a homicide.
Mahar said the ramifications of a “leaking” pancreas would have caused damage to other parts of the body throughout the day. Mahar, who provided the autopsy, confirmed that the death was caused by blunt force trauma. She noted that there were abrasions, lacerations and contusion internally and externally found on and in Hodnett that were not caused by medical intervention.
While indicating that a large volume of force would be needed to cause the damage to Hodnett that caused her to die, Mahar said she could not “quantify the level of force” used in this case. Mahar also noted that it was difficult to estimate when the damage took place, but said it likely happened within a day of the time of death.
The defense will begin calling witnesses Monday at noon when the trial resumes. Barone said Perez could possibly take the stand before he rested his case.