Franklin County capital murder trial underway
By By Melissa Cason
A Franklin County jury began hearing testimony yesterday in the capital murder case against a man accused of killing his infant son. Testimony will continue today, and the trial is expected to proceed through Friday.
In the opening statements, Franklin County District Attorney Joey Rushing told the jury that Jody Wayne Waldrop, age 29, of Red Bay, intentionally killed his three-week-old son, Chance, while the child was left in his care on Sept. 22, 2005. The child's mother, Starlet Waldrop, had gone to her grandparent's home.
Rushing told the jury that the evidence would show that during the 20 to 30 minutes Starlet was gone from the residence, the child received severe head injuries as a result of abuse from Jody. When Starlet arrived home, the baby was not breathing and was in a coma.
"When she returned home, her thriving, happy baby was a vegetable," Rushing told the jury.
Starlet immediately rushed the baby two blocks away to the Red Bay Hospital, where he was evaluated and sent to Children's Hospital in Birmingham, Rushing said.
He added that during this time, Jody was acting calmly and did not arrive at the hospital until the baby had been there 10 minutes, which indicates that Jody knew the baby was dead, because he killed him.
"Actions speak louder than words," Rushing said.
Rushing said that after the baby was sent to Children's Hospital that Jody encouraged Starlet and the other family members to keep the baby on life support even though he was brain dead.
Rushing contends that Jody's reasoning behind keeping the baby on life support stems from his intent to get away with murder.
"If there is no death, there is no autopsy, and therefore, no murder charge," Rushing told the jury.
During the course of several weeks after the incident, Jody gave numerous statements as to what caused baby Chance's injuries. The statements range from Jody saying he accidentally dropped his son while trying to light a cigarette to him adding blame to the child's mother during a confession note.
"In his final statement, Jody said that Starlet shook the baby earlier that day, and that the baby was crying and he shook him to get him to be quiet," Rushing told the jury. "Once the baby quieted down, Jody then put the baby back in his bouncy seat."
Rushing contends that the motive for the child's death is that Jody did not believe the child was his son.
However, defense attorney Dennis Odem painted a picture of a loving, caring father before the jury.
"They are not going to be able to prove that he intended to kill his child because he loved him," Odem said.
He added that Jody was alerted to the baby when Chance made a strange noise. Jody saw that he was not breathing, and shook the baby to try to get him unstrangled on his milk.
Odem added that Jody tried to perform CPR on the infant in order to revive him, and that he got Starlet's attention when she immediately arrived home.
The defense contends that during Starlet's frantic race two blocks away to the emergency room that the baby was accidentally struck in the head with something, causing his injury and his death.
"It appears that somewhere along the way the baby took a lick to the head," Odem told the jury.
Odem continued by telling the jury that whatever caused the baby's death was an accident, and that Jody is not at fault.
"People die in accidents all the time," Odem said. "Their death is not intentional, and it certainly is not criminal."
Several family members took the stand yesterday, including the baby's mother.
Alabama Bureau of Investigation Agents Charles Tresslor and Mark McCormick also gave testimony during yesterday's proceeding.
During cross-examination, defense attorney Steve Alderidge asked McCormick who he believed killed the baby.
"Jody Waldrop deliberately and intentionally killed that baby," McCormick told the court.
The trial is expected to continue today with medical testimony beginning around 10 a.m. The state is seeking the death penalty as a formal punishment in the case.