Expert witnesses testify about the severity of injuries to 2-year-old

Wednesday, December 2, 2009 | 10:58 p.m. CST; updated 12:37 p.m. CST, Thursday, December 3, 2009
Horace Johnson received a 30-year prison sentence on Monday. He was charged with second-degree murder in the death of his 2-year-old son Cortez Johnson that took place on June 25, 2008.

*CORRECTION: The jury in Horace Johnson's trial is from Clay County. An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the county.

COLUMBIA — Horace Johnson sat with his elbow propped on the table and his chin resting in his hand as witnesses testified about injuries to his 2-year-old son, Cortez Johnson. At times, he looked down to read a book resting on the table.

Johnson, 27, is on trial in the 13th Circuit Court for Boone County for his involvement in the death of the 2-year-old while he lived with the child and his mother, Keyonda Lumpkins. Johnson is charged with second-degree murder.


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Lumpkins, 28, was found guilty of second-degree murder in September and sentenced to 24 years in prison for her involvement in her son's death. The two parents are being tried separately because they implicate each other in the killing.

Douglas C. Miller, a clinical professor for the MU School of Medicine, testified that head trauma killed the 2-year-old. The jury winced as pictures from the autopsy were shown and Miller pointed out hemorrhages on the child's skull, which creates a bruise on the surface of the skin.

"The cause of death was damage inside the head, resulting from more severe trauma," Miller said. He described the injuries as equal to a fall from a second story building, or to those of an infant unrestrained in a car accident.

Lumpkins and Johnson took Cortez to the University Hospital emergency room on June 25, 2008. He had been dead for more than four hours and had more than 200 injuries to his body.

Members of the Clay County* jury scooted to the edge of their seats and leaned forward as Boone County Prosecutor Dan Knight displayed a "belt contraption" police detectives found in the home where Johnson and Lumpkins lived at the time of Cortez's death. It consisted of a belt, a cord, what looked like a dog collar and small metal rings linked together as a chain.

Columbia Police Detective Cyndi McLane told the jury that she also found pieces of duct tape underneath the bed, which had allegedly been used to bind the child's arms behind his back for "punishment."

Along with the duct tape, McLane said she found the contraption and makeshift handcuffs in the master bedroom, underneath bloodstains along the walls.

Knight presented a piece of the drywall with blood on it that had been taken from the home to the jury.

In an interview recorded by Columbia Police Detective Joseph Jackson, the jury heard Johnson tell Jackson that he saw Lumpkins used the belt contraption to tie the 2-year-old to a window sill, using the belt as a hook. "She (Lumpkins) was real controlling and got frustrated with him (Cortez)," Johnson said when asked why the mother abused their son.

An expert witness testified that blood found on the belt contraption and drywall were consistent with that of 2-year-old Cortez Johnson.

Missouri State Highway Patrol DNA Supervisor Jason Wyckoff told the jury that DNA testing of the blood found on the handcuffs, made of string, thin wires and wash cloths, was consistent with Cortez and Horace Johnson.

In the recorded police interview, Johnson said that he "never saw anyone but Keyonda abuse the child." Johnson said he never hit the child except "spanking him with his hand" and never left any marks.

Jackson told the court that he was personally angered by the abuse and had asked Johnson during the interview why he did nothing to stop Lumpkins.

Defense attorney Stephen Wyse responded by asking the detective how often the police help boyfriends take children away from their mothers. Wyse said the defendant felt there was nothing he could do.

The trial is scheduled to continue with witnesses for the defense at 8:15 a.m. Thursday at the Boone County Courthouse.

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