by VERONICA GORDON
Hays County jurors listened to days of testimony from witnesses this week in the capital murder trial of Kyle day care owner Christina Suzanne Lyons.
Lyons is charged in the death of 10-week-old Benjamin Spencer.
In November 2010, Benjamin suffered severe head and chest injuries while under Lyons’ care at the Little Lyons Cub Daycare at 561 Keystone Loop in the Steeplechase subdivision. He died a week later on Thanksgiving from the injuries he sustained. Lyons was charged on Feb. 3, 2011.
At the time of the death, Lyons told police that she left the child unattended on a sofa, approximately 24 inches high, while she went to the restroom. When she returned, she saw the child on the hardwood floor, laying face up.
The District Attorney’s office is not seeking the death penalty in the case. Lyons faces life in prison if found guilty.
On Monday, Travis County chief medical examiner Dr. David Dolinak testified about Benjamin’s injuries.
Hays County Assistant District Attorney Amy Lockhart handed a doll to Dolinak to point out the injuries for the jury. Dolinak marked areas on the doll’s head and documented multiple skull fractures corresponding to Benjamin’s injuries.
Lockhart asked Dolinak if one impact from a fall could have caused the injuries he described.
“No,” Dolinak said. “That would not explain it. It would be easier to explain it with more than one impact.”
Lockhart asked Dolinak if his findings were consistent with inflicted abusive trauma.
“Yes, I found that the infant died as a result of blunt force trauma,” he said.
Dolinak also testified that he reported finding healing fractures on the infant’s ribs that were consistent with ongoing or prior abuse.
Tuesday, Benjamin’s father Duane Spencer told jurors about his son’s death.
Spencer recounted how he and his wife, Robin, were told there had been an accident and their son was hurt at day care.
“It was about 2:30 p.m. when the receptionist at work told me there was an emergency call from my wife,” Spencer said. “We were told Benjamin had rolled off the couch and hit his head.”
Spencer said he expected his son would get stitched up for a cut and be able to go home that night.
“We started to realize it was more serious than we thought when we saw the cop cars at her house,” Spencer said.
Spencer and his wife were told that their son was taken to Dell Children’s Hospital in Austin.
“As soon as we got to the hospital, a doctor came up to us and told us we had to sign a waiver to allow them to operate on Benjamin or he would die,” Spencer said.
Doctors told the couple later that they were concerned Benjamin wouldn’t make it through the night because of the extent of his head injuries, Spencer added.
“They also found fractures on his ribs that were most likely not accidental,” Spencer said. “I felt sick, confused and disoriented.”
Spencer went on to describe Lyons’ actions at the hospital.
“She was looming, hanging out in the background,” he said. “I said nothing to her. I didn’t trust her presence.”
Benjamin was on life-support from November 18 until he died on November 24, Thanksgiving Day.
“I was holding Ben when he died,” Spencer said, wiping tears from his eyes.
Lyons is being represented by court-appointed attorneys Ariel Payan and Ira Davis.
The defense called witnesses Tuesday who also used Lyons’ day care business. One of those witnesses, Chief Craig Kolls of the Kyle Fire Department, was sent to the scene of the call.
“My boss heard the call on the radio and asked me if that was Christina’s address,” Kolls said. “He said why don’t you head over there? So I did.”
When Kolls arrived at the house, he said Lyons was crying and distraught. He asked Lyons where his daughter and the other children were.
“I checked on the other kids and they were fine,” Kolls said.
Kolls was getting snacks and drinks for the other children when Kyle Police officers arrived.
Kolls said he had no reason to think that Lyons’ was lying about the cause of Benjamin’s injuries.
“I told her to just tell the police everything,” he recalled. “She was extremely upset. I didn’t question her, but I told her more than anything, you need to tell the truth.”
Koll said he saw Lyons the next day when he dropped off his daughter at her house.
“She asked me if I thought Abby was safe with her,” he said. “I said yes.”
Five-year-old Madison Lyons was among the witnesses for the defense in her mother’s trial.
Defense attorneys asked that their client be excused during Madison’s testimony.
Judge Bill Henry asked Christina Suzanne Lyons if she thought it was in the best interest of her defense.
“I have not spoken to her or seen her in 18 months,” Lyons told Henry.
Assistant District Attorney Cathy Compton objected.
Henry allowed the request for Lyons to be absent when her daughter testified. She was escorted out of the courtroom by officers.
Madison was called by the defense, but when it came time for her to enter the courtroom, she didn’t want to go inside.
Christina Suzanne Lyons was brought back into the courtroom for testimony from other defense witnesses.
The trial could last until next week. At press time, the trial was continuing in the Hays County Government Center in San Marcos.
Visit www.haysfreepress.com for continuing coverage of the trial.