Wednesday, October 3 2012 7:58 AM EDT2012-10-03 11:58:46 GMT
The Charleston County coroner will hold an inquest into the death of two-year-old Ginny Hughes who died at MUSC on July 4, 2012.More >>
The Charleston County coroner will hold an inquest into the death of two-year-old Ginny Hughes who died at MUSC on July 4, 2012. More >>
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Witness testimony at a coroner's inquest into the death of a 2-year-old girl revealed little new details, but one observation stood out from the stand.
The call made to 911 on July 2 was one of the first things heard by the jury. That call was made by the live-in babysitter.
Afterwards, the babysitter recounted the events of the day little Ginny Hughes was found unresponsive at her home near Dorchester Road in North Charleston.
Read more about what the police say happened that day here.
The second witness, a First Responder took the stand and said he didn't notice anything was out of the ordinary for the situation.
The third and fourth witnesses, however, testified that they did see something out of the ordinary. They testified that Ginny had what looked like old bruises on her face near her mouth.
One of them also noted what looked like a bite mark on her arm. The third witness said it looked like a human bite, but he couldn't be sure.
Before a recess was called, the jury listened to another 911 call that was placed on April 29. That call, made by the girl's mother, was for a seizure.
Police have said that Ginny's babysitter told them the child had a history of seizures and dehydration. A NCPD report says the toddler was treated at MUSC in April after tests found she suffered from brain and retinal hemorrhages.
According to investigators, following Ginny's stay at the hospital in April, the Department of Social Services temporarily took custody of the toddler. The report does not say what caused Ginny's injuries in April, or at the time of her death.
Ginny's doctor testified next. SHe said she first saw the girl in March and had a couple of visits afterwards. She noted that Ginny had bilateral amputations at birth, so she walked on her knees.
On April 26th, the doctor said Ginny came in with bruising to her nose and forehead. Her mother told the doctor that Ginny had fallen off the couch. The doctor didn't think it was suspicious and at that visit, Ginny tested positive for strep and dehydration.
The doctor then said that on that same weekend, Ginny had two seizures which lead to her first hospitalization. An MRI was done and found bleeding of the brain, showing evidence of a stroke.
The doctor testified that Ginny was discharged from the hospital on May 16, after two and a half weeks. At that time, Ginny was already in DSS custody and she was started on seizure medication.
The doctor said she noticed Ginny was less talkative at a follow-up visit on May 17.
A sixth witness, another doctor, said he only met Ginny once and that she seemed to be well hydrated and had much more energy. He noted that a man was with Ginny's mother during his visit.
The seventh witness, Dr. Michelle Omai with MUSC, deals with child abuse cases in pediatrics. She said she saw Ginny during her 2.5 week stay. The treating team noticed that Ginny's head seemed enlarged, she had retinal hemorrhages and a bruise to her left arm, right hip and thighs.
The team eliminated anything with infection that could have caused her stroke and noted that her brain was well formed.
"I was concerned about overall picture. About head findings…about abuse on multiple occasions," Dr. Omai said. She noted inconsistency at home along with drug and domestic violence.
"I supported DSS's decision to put her and her siblings into foster care until further findings," Dr. Omai said on the stand.
An ophthalmologist then took the stand and testified that Ginny had less hemorrhages but had swelling of nerves which means something "bad had happened to the brain."
A radiologist testified that Ginny's stroke was caused by an exterior blood flow obstruction from the brain, saying that something had caused an interruption.
Coroner Rae Wooten interjected that something may have interfered with blood flow but there are a number of ways that could happen, including obstructing blood flow from the neck.
Witness number 10 conducted the forensic autopsy. Ginny was kept on life support until she was brain dead. He noticed her "prominent head" and noted a contusion on her face, left forehead, right cheek and on both sides of her ears.
He found a contusion on her arm that was u-shaped like a bite mark, consistent with a child's mouth. He also says he found a couple bruises on her lower back.
"In my opinion, it is left undetermined the matter and cause of death," he said.
In what may have been two of the most revealing testimonies of the inquest, Sgt. Tami Driggers took the stand, a detective with Special Victim's Unit of the North Charleston Police Department.
Driggers said she interviewed Step one-on-one. In that interview Driggers says she asked Step, "Did you hurt Ginny?". Driggers said Step non-chalantly responded, "if I did, I don't remember."
Driggers went on to say that during that same interview she told Step that she thinks Step smothered Ginny. Driggers said Step responded, "If that's what happened, I don't remember."
Driggers says she thought it was odd for Step not to remember since Step specifically remembered other details of the incident.
Driggers also noted that Step would not have been able to effectively perform CPR and call 911 without dropping the phone. Driggers went on to say that during the 911 call, there was silence in the background and Step was not out of breath.
Ginny's mom, Amanda Montague, was one of the last witnesses to take the stand.
During her testimony, Montague said she did not think Step did anything wrong and blamed natural causes for Ginny's death.
The 6-person jury deliberated for about 35 minutes. Their verdict named Step responsible for Ginny's death.
Rae Wooten, Charleston County Coroner, issued an arrest warrant immediately following the verdict.
Step was tearful as she was taken into police custody.
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