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Jury deliberations begin in murder trial

Published on -5/1/2014, 3:44 PM

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By Erin Mathews

The Salina Journal

The evidence that Troy L. Love II abused his girlfriend's daughter and caused her death is overwhelming, prosecutor Christina Trocheck told jurors Wednesday.

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The evidence that Troy L. Love II abused his girlfriend's daughter and caused her death is overwhelming, prosecutor Christina Trocheck told jurors Wednesday.

"There is only one person who could have caused Bre'Elle's injuries, and he is sitting right there," she said, pointing at Love. "You should find him guilty."

But attorney Roger Struble, who represents Love, said the evidence against Love is not beyond a reasonable doubt.

"My client is not guilty, and he has told you, 'I didn't do that,' " Struble said.

Jurors deliberated for three hours Wednesday afternoon before breaking for the night.

Read earlier stories from the murder trial at: www.salina.com/troylove

Deliberations were set to resume at 9 a.m. today in Saline County District Court in Love's trial on charges of felony murder and two counts of child abuse.

Before the injuries

In closing arguments, attorneys recounted events leading up to 18-month-old Bre'Elle Jefferson's fatal injuries on April 9, 2012.

Before Love entered her life, Bre'Elle was a "happy, energetic little girl," Trocheck said.

Trocheck, an assistant county attorney, said that Love, who was dating Bre'Elle's mother, Robin Harrington, was jealous of Bre'Elle for taking up her mother's time. He also didn't believe Harrington was strict enough in disciplining the child.

"It's not a coincidence that Bre'Elle's injuries began appearing after the defendant came into her life," Trocheck said.

She said that Love, who had never been a father, was not prepared to assume the care of three young children. While her older sister was potty trained and more self-sufficient, and her infant brother could be placed in his crib, Bre'Elle was "a completely different story," Trocheck said.

"She was active, energetic and required more attention," she said. She said the fussier Bre'Elle became, the more abusive Love became.

The whole story

Struble asked, "Where in the world does the state come up with an inference that Troy was jealous of Robin and her child?"

Struble said Love had reason to be upset with Harrington after she gave her phone number to another man she met at a nightclub, but there is no reason to believe he was angry with her children.

"My job is to give you the rest of the story -- to point out all the facts, not just those when viewed support the state's theory and charges," Struble said. "What evidence has the state failed to produce? Are there holes in the cloth of the whole story here?"

Who inflicted injuries?

Trocheck said medical experts all agree that Bre'Elle was killed by violent shaking or her head being slammed into an object by an adult. She said Love was the only adult awake in the house at the time.

"The medical testimony demonstrates the extreme amount of anger and force," she said. "This isn't just anger. This is rage."

But Struble said it's not clear that Harrington couldn't have inflicted Bre'Elle's injuries.

"If it were possible to go back in time and have a baby cam in there, we'd love to have it," he said.

He said the only testimony jurors heard about anyone being seen treating Bre'Elle harshly was about Harrington.

Harrington said she had never seen Love hit, spank or shake her children, Struble said.

"Why? Because it didn't happen," he said. "Based on the facts of this case, Robin was immediately eliminated (as a suspect) and not questioned by law enforcement."

Look at credibility

Trocheck said jurors heard from Love and his family a lot of allegations disparaging Harrington as a parent and as a girlfriend. Harrington, her mother and sister refuted the claims Wednesday.

She said all testimony claiming Harrington had disciplined Bre'Elle by striking her on the head came from Love's family, and she asked jurors to determine their credibility and what motive they may have.

She said it is not surprising that no one would have seen Love in the act of hurting Bre'Elle.

"Child abuse is a secretive crime," she said.

Trocheck told jurors that perhaps Harrington made choices that they would not have made, but that's not what the case is about.

"The real issue is who caused the fatal injuries to Bre'Elle," she said.

She said Harrington was upset by the changes she was observing in her daughter and was trying to figure out what was causing Bre'Elle to be quiet and clingy, have a stiff, swollen neck, bruises in her ears and patches of hair missing. She spoke to several people trying to figure out what might be wrong with the girl and thought the child might be ill or have a nutritional deficiency, Trocheck said.

Trocheck said that while Love testified that he did everything he could to convince Harrington to get medical treatment for Bre'Elle, in reality he didn't say anything like that and encouraged her to wait.

Trocheck asked if members of Love's family were concerned about Harrington's treatment of Bre'Elle, why hadn't they shared those concerns with law enforcement previously, or why didn't they force Harrington to take her daughter to a doctor earlier, much as they had all pressured Harrington to see a doctor when she started experiencing debilitating back pain.

Trocheck also asked jurors to consider whether, given Harrington's lower back condition, she would have the physical strength required to violently shake a 24-pound child.

Did she fall?

Struble suggested to jurors that Bre'Elle could have sustained broken ribs and vertebrae that had begun to heal in a tumble down the stairs at Harrington's sister's house in January or February. He said Harrington never sought medical attention for Bre'Elle following the fall. He said that as Bre'Elle fell, Love, whom the state described as "angry, frustrated and jealous," tried to catch her.

Trocheck said 17 days lapsed from the time Love assumed responsibility for child care while Harrington was experiencing back problems to the time Bre'Elle was dead. She said Love could have inflicted the previous injuries as well.

On the afternoon of April 9, 2012, Trocheck said, after everyone else lay down for a nap, Bre'Elle and Love were the only two people awake in the house, and Love was the last person to see Bre'Elle before she quit breathing.

She said that Love's court testimony that he wasn't sure Harrington was sleeping contradicts statements he made that day to his cousin and to a neighbor who called 911.

She suggested that perhaps he did go to the kitchen -- after he caused Bre'Elle's fatal injuries.

"Ask yourself this," Trocheck said to the jury. "Had the defendant already harmed Bre'Elle, and he went to the kitchen to try to decide what he was going to do?"

A different perspective

Struble gave jurors a different perspective on Love's visit to the kitchen after he discovered the girls awake from their nap.

"Is it unreasonable to sit in the kitchen and hopefully let them go back down?" he said.

Trocheck said Harrington had taken a prescription pain pill that made her drowsy before her nap, and when Love kicked the couch to wake her up, she started to roll over and go back to sleep before he kicked the couch a second time.

But once Harrington was awake, she became frantic to get help, and after trying CPR, ran outside looking for emergency medical responders. She said Harrington was outside with everyone else -- except Love -- after the ambulance arrived.

"While the others were trying to save Bre'Elle's life, the defendant snuck out the back door," Trocheck said. "The defendant was running the other way because he knew he was the one to have done this to Bre'Elle Jefferson."

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