Medical Examiner testifies in Bowie County capital murder trial

Clifford James Gayton, 18, of Texarkana Texas
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A medical examiner testified Wednesday in a Bowie County capital murder trial that she has never seen injuries like those found during the autopsy of a 2-year-old Texarkana boy in January.

Clifford James Gayton, 19, faces life without the possibility of parole if convicted of capital murder in the death of Da’Corian Wright. Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp told the jury in opening statements that Gayton beat the boy in a fit of rage while his girlfriend, the child’s mother, was at work. Texarkana lawyer Josh Potter urged the jury to consider that the child’s death might have been caused by someone else.

Dallas County Medical Examiner Tracy Dyer testified as graphic and disturbing photos of Da’Corian’s badly bruised, 28-pound body were shown to the jury. The boy was covered in bruises, scrapes and cuts on most of his body. Dyer said that while massive blunt force trauma to the child’s head and brain were enough to cause his death, other trauma could have killed the boy as well, under direct examination by Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp.

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Dyer testified that she has performed approximately 4,000 autopsies and has never seen injuries like the ones Da’Corian suffered to his genital area.

“This appears to have been a target area,” Dyer said. “I have never seen lacerations to a child’s scrotal sac. When I saw these injuries I was very suspicious there was some sort of stomping that caused these.”

Members of the jury and court observers wiped tears from their eyes as Dyer testified that the only part of the boy’s body that seemed free of injury were the creases between his thighs and abdomen.

Dyer estimated the injuries were sustained about six to eight hours before paramedics were called to the Town North Apartments shortly after midnight Jan. 28. Under questioning from Texarkana lawyer Eric Marks, Dyer disagreed that the injuries could have happened more recently or in the days before Da’Corian died.

The boy’s mother, Frederica Lewis, testified she returned home from work Jan. 27 at about 10 p.m. after stopping to buy synthetic marijuana with a friend in Texrakana, Ark. Lewis said she took a shower and checked on Da’Corian and his 1-year-old sister around midnight. She said she carried Da’Corian to her bedroom when she found him cold to the touch and not breathing and woke Gayton.

Lewis said Gayton put Da’Corian in the bathtub and told her not to call anyone. Lewis said she took the boy from the tub to the living room and called for help.

Texarkana, Texas, police officers testified that Lewis was hysterical and had to be restrained as paramedics attempted life saving measures. Texarkana, Texas, firefighter and paramedic Jason Hale testified that first responders knew the boy had been dead for some time when they discovered his legs and jaw were stiff.

Several police officers testified that Gayton appeared “emotionless,” while Lewis was inconsolable, under questioning from Crisp and Assistant District Attorney Lauren Richards. Potter and Marks asked the police witnesses if Gayton’s lack of expression could be attributed to shock.

Texarkana, Texas, police officer Jennifer Hargrave testified Gayton denied anyone else was in the apartment until she asked if there were any other children present in the home. Hargrave said she went into the children’s bedroom to check on Da’Corian’s sister.

“She was covered up to her neck in a blanket. It was odd. Her eyes were open and blinking but she laid there like she was a doll,” Hargrave said. “I pulled down the blanket and I could tell she had red bruising marks from her chest to her stomach.”

A Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner testified that Da’Corian’s sister had bruising on much of her back and torso and that her genitals were swollen and bruised.

Crime scene analyst Mark Sillivan testified that he collected diapers from the trash outside the apartment and from a bathroom sink which appeared to have been stained with blood, as well as blankets and a pillow case from Da’Corian’s bed.

The jury was told by 102nd District Judge Bobby Lockhart to return to court Thursday morning to hear more testimony in the case. Gayton faces life without the possibility of parole if convicted of capital murder in Da’Corian’s death. The state is not seeking the death penalty. Gayton has also been charged with first-degree murder and first-degree injury to a child in Da’Corian’s death which means the jury could have the option of convicting Gayton of a lesser offense if they believe he is guilty but not of capital murder.

Gayton is charged with third-degree injury to a child for allegedly causing the injuries to Da’Corian’s little sister. Third-degree injury to a child is punishable by two to ten years in prison.

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