Family didn't observe any injuries before child's death

Wednesday, September 2, 2009 | 3:14 p.m. CDT; updated 11:06 a.m. CDT, Thursday, September 3, 2009
Keyonda Lumpkins testifies during her trial Wednesday afternoon at the Boone County Courthouse. The state rested its case Wednesday afternoon regarding the June 2008 death of her 2-year-old son.

COLUMBIA — Weakened by disease and abuse, Keyonda Lumpkins was under the control of the father of her child, witnesses testified Wednesday morning in Lumpkins’ murder trial.

Lumpkins, 27, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of her 2-year-old son, Cortez Johnson. The boy’s father, Horace Johnson, 27, is also charged with second-degree murder and is scheduled for trial in December.

After the state rested its case Wednesday morning, the defense called a series of Lumpkins’ family members to testify. They described the couple's abusive relationship but said they didn’t observe significant injuries on Cortez just weeks before his death.

Lumpkins herself was expected to take the stand Wednesday afternoon. She has appeared impassive during her trial so far, slumped in her chair at the defense table. But during testimony from her family during the morning, Lumpkins smiled at one point and seemed more engaged in the proceedings.

Cortez’s body was brought to University Hospital on the morning of June 25, 2008. Medical examiners found he had been burned, cut and bound before he eventually died from a blow to his head.

Lumpkins’ family on Wednesday portrayed the mother as in almost constant pain as the result of sickle cell anemia. Although she was prescribed morphine for the pain, she had to check herself into the hospital several times a year when she had particularly painful episodes, testified her sister, Rashonda Lovelady, who also has sickle cell anemia.

Lumpkins was also abused by Johnson, who tried to isolate her from her family, witnesses testified. Chenette Hill, Lumpkins’ aunt, testified that Johnson had threatened to kill her if she didn’t move out of the apartment she was sharing with Lumpkins.

“He pretty much wanted to control her,” Hill said of Johnson. “He was angry at the world.”

Other family members noticed a change in their relationship with Lumpkins after Johnson was released from prison in the spring of 2008. They testified that Johnson pressured her to spend time only with him and that he hit her on a number of occasions. Lumpkins’ brother, Roy Lovelady, testified that Lumpkins was bleeding from the mouth and cheek after one such incident.

None of the family members who testified Wednesday morning said they observed any significant injuries on Cortez before his death. Lumpkins’ mother, Sheila Lumpkin, said Cortez had slept over at her house on the night of June 10 and she didn’t notice anything wrong with him. (Her name is spelled differently because Lumpkins had an “s” added to the name on her birth certificate.) Other family members said they had seen Cortez as late as June 16 and not noticed anything other than a few mosquito bites.

“Do you actually think if we’d seen something like that we would have just walked away?” Hill asked on the witness stand.

The defense is scheduled to continue calling witnesses, including Lumpkins, on Wednesday afternoon. Check back with the Missourian for updates on the trial.

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