Testimony Reveals Extent Of Injuries To 16-Month-Old
MAYVILLE — The Chautauqua County District Attorney’s office said a Jamestown man, charged with the murder of a 16-month-old child in 2014, left the toddler to suffer and “did not care.” However, the public defender maintains that Tyler Perez is an innocent man.
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.
“She was beaten — beaten bad,” said Michael Flaherty, first assistant district attorney, in his opening statement Thursday.
The trial is being heard in front of Judge M. William Boller.
“They don’t know a damn thing,” Public Defender Ned Barone declared in his opening remarks regarding the lack of eye witnesses, forensic evidence and direct evidence.
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.
Angel Hodnett took the stand during day one of the trial.
During testimony from Amanda Hassinger, a Buffalo pediatric critical care medicine specialist, it was learned that Hodnett’s pancreas was severely damaged and was “split in half” by the time the child arrived at the Buffalo hospital. She explained that in order to have as much trauma as she did, the child had to experience a “significant blow to her abdomen.”
Hassinger said she wasn’t sure if Hodnett’s death could have been avoided if she made it to the hospital sooner due to the extent of the damage. Hassinger believed the trauma occurred April 16, otherwise, she said the baby would have died earlier.
While not the father of Hodnett, Angel Hodnett said on the stand that Perez was like a “father figure” to her daughter.
Perez was arraigned in March following an investigation spanning five years.
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.
“He has no desire to accept a lesser plea,” Barone said.
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.
At the time, Angel Hodnett assumed the bruising was from her daughter’s visit to WCA Hospital earlier in the day to remove a cast on her leg.
Soon after returning from the store, it was noted that Perez eventually left the Jamestown residence for the day. Later, Angel Hodnett believed her daughter’s condition was getting worse. She called Perez who then instructed her to call an ambulance.
While 911 was never dialed, Angel Hodnett and family members transported the toddler to WCA. Hodnett was later flown to Buffalo.
Barone, in his opening statements, asked the jury not to “convict an innocent person” in order for the DA’s office to seek justice of a five-year-old case.
He described Perez as a father figure to Hodnett whom he treated like “gold.” He described Angel Hodnett as the sole individual who truly knows what happened to the child in 2014. Speaking to jurors, Barone indicated that Angel Hodnett “has everything to gain” from Perez’s potential conviction.
He said Angel Hodnett was told by the DA’s office in interviews prior to Perez’s arrest that “somebody’s got to pay.”
Barone stated that the prosecution is willing to convict an innocent man in order to “obtain justice for Nayla.”
Testimony will resume around 9 a.m. today.