August 12, 2014

Doctor testifies dead child’s injuries weren’t caused by a fall

The defendant’s 2-year-old son bled to death internally from a torn vein that took a significant amount of force to rupture, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Joshua Appleton’s attorney insisted Tuesday that Appleton did not have the opportunity to kill his 2-year-old son on a June evening two years ago.

Prosecutors argued that Appleton is the only one who could have caused the fatal injuries.

Appleton, 33, in on trial on a murder charge in the death of Ron Appleton, who died about 10 p.m. on June 28, 2012, of chest and abdominal injuries at Cook Children’s Medical Center.

Joshua Appleton told investigators that the boy was injured in a fall. Medical personnel said his injuries were consistent with his being struck with or against a hard object or surface, prosecutors said.

Dr. Adriana Rodriguez, the emergency pediatric physician who treated Ron that night, testified Tuesday that the toddler’s inferior vena cava was torn, allowing blood into the abdominal cavity. The inferior vena cava is the vein that transports blood from the lower body to the heart. Also, Ron’s liver was lacerated, Rodriguez said.

The tear in the vein could not have been caused by a short fall, Rodriguez testified. The vein is thick, and tears usually are caused by high impact forces, such as in motor vehicle wrecks, but the injury could be caused by a single blow, depending on the amount of force used, Rodriguez said.

The same is true for liver lacerations. “We most often see [them] in motor vehicle accidents,” Rodriguez said.

Earlier, in their opening statements, prosecutor Kelly Meador and defense attorney Okey Akpom both said no one has determined exactly what happened to the child.

Meador said video surveillance at a child-care center showed a healthy toddler walking out with his brother after Joshua Appleton picked them up about 6 p.m. that day, Meador said.

“This injury was painful and violent and required a tremendous amount of force,” Meador said. “The only person with him was his father. You know it did not happen at the day care.”

Akpom suggested that Ron might have been hurt at the daycare, as he could be seen rubbing his head as he left. The autopsy found a small head bruise not seen later by doctors at the hospital and, Akpom said, the daycare video is incomplete.

“Part of the video has been deleted,” Akpom said.

After picking up his sons, Joshua Appleton was with his three children at their home in far south Fort Worth for less than an hour before one of the other sons yelled that Ron had fallen, hurt himself and wasn’t responding, Akpom said. Six minutes later, the father called 911, Akpom said.

Testimony is expected to continue Wednesday in state District Judge Scott Wisch’s court. Wisch is ill, and visiting Judge Roger Towery is presiding.

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