Crime, Fire + Courts

Attorneys at odds over Woodland infant’s death

By From page A1 | April 24, 2014

WOODLAND — What happened to baby Samuel Stone?

The Woodland infant, one of a set of twins, was just 3 months old when he died on Oct. 9, 2012, with injuries that included bleeding to his brain and rib fractures in the process of healing.

Yolo County prosecutors say the wounds were the result of abuse inflicted by the baby’s father, Quentin Paul Stone, whose trial on felony and misdemeanor child endangerment charges began this week in Yolo Superior Court.

“Mr. Stone was the only adult in the house in the time frame that the injuries could have occurred,” Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Mount told a nine-man, three woman jury during opening statements earlier this week.

Mount described the damage to baby Samuel as a “constellation of injuries … that require a certain application of force,” none of which would occur naturally in a child.

The Yolo County grand jury indicted Stone, 40, on the child-endangerment charges last August following a five-day, closed-door hearing.

But Stone’s defense attorneys contend Samuel’s fatal condition was the result of being pulled off a bed by his toddler brother a month before he was hospitalized, and the family’s doctors failed to properly examine the infant even after his parents reported unusual vomiting and limpness in the days after the alleged fall.

By the time Samuel suffered an apparent seizure on Oct. 3, 2012, and was admitted to the pediatric intensive-care unit at the UC Davis Medical Center, it was too late to save him, the defense said.

“We’re going to show you that boy was not abused or mistreated in any way,” Supervising Deputy Public Defender Monica Brushia, defending Stone along with Deputy Public Defender Martha Sequeira, told the jury during her opening statement. “This trial is about Sam and his family and their tragedy.”

Stone’s family, including wife Sara Stone — a well-known soccer coach at Davis High School — are standing firmly behind the defendant, with a dozen or more relatives and friends sitting in on the trial proceedings. All have come to court wearing photos of the family taken during happier times, shortly after the twins were born.

Prosecutors launched their case Wednesday with an audio recording of the 911 call Stone placed on that October evening, reporting that his son was unresponsive and having trouble breathing inside the family’s Woodland home.

“I just went into his room and he was very limp,” Stone tells the dispatcher, the baby’s labored, irregular breathing audible in the background. “Can you hear that? That’s him.”

Ambulance paramedic Wendy Unmacht, one of the first responders to arrive on scene, described Samuel’s breathing as a “grunting sound.”

“(He) wasn’t breathing appropriately,” Unmacht said under questioning by prosecutor Robin Johnson. “The child had no purposeful movement — he wasn’t moving at all.”

Unmacht transported the infant to Woodland Memorial Hospital, only to return later to transfer him to a more specialized care facility at the UCD Medical Center in Sacramento. By then, Samuel was emitting a “high-pitched cry,” though he slept in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.

Stone also rode in the ambulance, displaying a demeanor that Unmacht described as “distraught.”

Earlier that evening, Stone and his wife had received the news that a brain scan revealed evidence of bleeding on both sides of Samuel’s brain.

“There was evidence of multiple areas of bleeding, some new and some old,” said Dr. Tully Wiedman, the Woodland Memorial Hospital emergency-room physician who was on duty at the time of Samuel’s arrival. “In all my years, this is the first time I’ve seen a baby with this level of bleeding.”

With no visible injuries to the baby’s head or skull, “I think this is most consistent with what they call ‘shaken baby,’ ” Wiedman testified, later adding that “low-level falls are a rare cause of brain injury.”

Wiedman recalled gathering the Stones to inform them of Samuel’s transfer to UCD “and give them an idea of what they might expect there.” Due to the nature of their son’s injuries, they would be “treated as suspects,” he warned.

Child Protective Services removed Samuel’s two brothers from the family’s home two days later.

The trial, which is expected to last about a month, resumes today in Judge Paul Richardson’s courtroom.

— Reach Lauren Keene at [email protected] or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene

Lauren Keene

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