Court hears testimony in Nicole West trial

Opening statements made in infant death case
Wednesday, April 25, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:37 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

A young Columbia woman cried in court on Tuesday while listening to a recording of the 911 call she made after discovering her 6-month-old daughter lying motionless in December 2005.

Nicole West, 25, on trial on suspicion of second-degree involuntary manslaughter, first-degree child endangerment and possession of a controlled substance, is accused of laying her daughter down for a nap on a pillow with a blanket over her head, leading to the infant’s death.

The day after Christmas 2005, West discovered her daughter, Deja, pale and unresponsive in the back bedroom of her boyfriend’s apartment, pale, with blue lips, hands and feet. After an investigation, the Columbia Police found probable cause to charge West with the infant’s death in 2006.

Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Merilee Crockett said West was a neglectful mother, “not interested in taking care of Deja,” in her opening statement.

“(West) treated (Deja) as if she was a nuisance,” Crockett said. “She took away any ability Deja had to fight for a breath so she could smoke marijuana and watch a movie without being bothered with a crying baby.”

Jenean Thompson, of the Boone County Public Defender’s office, presented West as a good mother who “thought she did all she could do,” when laying Deja down for a nap even though the infant was still crying.

Asssistant Prosecuting Attorney Richard Hicks played the 911 tape for the jury of eight men and four women, which depicted West’s hysterical boyfriend attempting CPR on the child. West remained calm on the phone while the dispatcher explained how to perform CPR.

Columbia police Officer Mike Valley, who responded to the call, said that West was calm and collected while her boyfriend was “much more animated,” yelling and irate when Valley asked to go into the bedroom to see where Deja had been lying. During his questioning by Hicks, Valley said that West “said she was tired of hearing (Deja) cry.”

Other responders to the incident testified for the state on their accounts of what happened, including Detective Bryan Liebhart of the Columbia Police Department, who spoke with West at University Hospital the night of Deja’s death and was the main investigator for the case.

Judge Gene Hamilton will hear the rest of the state’s arguments today, along with arguments from the defense in Division I of the Boone County Courthouse.

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