Murder trial for mother of slain child starts Monday

Sunday, August 30, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 9:11 a.m. CDT, Sunday, August 30, 2009

COLUMBIA — The trial of the Columbia woman charged with second-degree murder in the death of her 2-year-old son begins Monday with jury selection in Platte County.

Keyonda Lumpkins, 27, was charged along with 27-year-old Horace Johnson, in the death of their son Cortez Johnson. Horace Johnson's murder trial is scheduled for December.

Cortez died on June 25, 2008, from blunt-force trauma to the head, according to an autopsy by the Boone County Medical Examiner's Office. The office ruled the death a homicide in July 2008. According to the medical examiner's report, Cortez was burned, cut and bound for an unspecified amount of time before he eventually died from the blow to his head.

A probable cause statement filed by the Columbia Police Department described burns to the child's face and neck that appeared to be in different stages of healing, suggesting that he had been abused over a period of time. In addition, the medical examiner found several burns on his nose, lip, buttocks and genitalia.

Police found blood matching Cortez's DNA on the walls of the master bedroom of the house Lumpkins and Horace Johnson shared at 1019 Elleta Blvd. Blood was also found on duct tape discovered under a mattress and on "a harness type of contraption consisting of belts tied and fastened together," according to the probable cause statement.

The defendants were never married but were living together at the time of Cortez's death. They’ve accused each other of causing the injuries that led to the child's death, according to the probable cause statement. Each suspect said the other "inflicted severe injuries on Cortez by hitting him with a belt and an open hand."

After Monday's selection, the jury will be brought in from Platte County, just north of Kansas City, to hear the Lumpkins case.

In an unusual twist to the trial, Boone County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Knight could be called to testify by defense attorney Kevin O’Brien. Knight was present for the deposition of a witness who later admitted to the prosecutor that she lied to him in the interview. O’Brien argued in a motion that because the witness made that admission to Knight, the prosecutor is now a potential witness in the case.

Neither Knight nor O'Brien returned phone calls for comment. Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Richard Hicks said the state will challenge the defense if Knight is called to testify during the trial.

Hicks said the state will present about two days' worth of evidence at the trial.

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