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Norcross father denies killing 18-month-old son

LAWRENCEVILLE - Dressed in a pressed, striped shirt and red tie, Wade Lewis Jr. admitted to a jury Thursday that he is a liar.

But lying, he stressed, doesn't make him a killer.

The diverse jury of six men and six women will be asked today to decide if Lewis killed his 18-month-old son near a backyard slide in 2005.

Or if, as Lewis claims, the child fell off the small slide and incurred the brain injuries that later killed him.

Closing arguments are expected today in the weeklong murder trail.

Prosecutors say Lewis, 26, murdered his son, Isaiah, on June 7 that year by shaking him violently enough to cause severe brain trauma.

On Thursday, Lewis denied that. He recounted how he had left the child near a backyard swing set to answer a phone call at his Norcross home. He returned to his son to find the child crying between the slide and a swing, he said.

Lewis admitted he shook the child, but "in a consoling manner - more of a bouncing motion," he said.

The boy later fell asleep, Lewis said, and slept long past his lunchtime. Noticing a discoloration in his son, Lewis finally tried to revive the child with a cold wash cloth and bribe him with a Popsicle, but when that didn't work he called 911, he said.

"I was ... in shock," he said.

That's where things got tricky. Lewis told the jury he lied to a 911 operator - and later to investigators - by saying his wife, Carla, was watching the child when he fell. She later told police that was untrue.

Lewis had been "hiding" in Gwinnett from a 2003 warrant for criminal trespass and public indecency in DeKalb County, he said, and he didn't want his name involved with the investigation.

Grasping for an alibi, Lewis also told police he was visiting a mistress when his son was injured, which he later admitted was a lie, he said.

"I was just anxiously searching for an alibi," Lewis said. "I didn't want to be incarcerated with all this going on. I really didn't understand the seriousness of it."

Assistant District Attorney Rich Vandever said Lewis' untruthfulness about the warrants should discredit his story about the alleged murder.

"You lied to get out of trouble," said Vandever, cross-examining the defendant. "(You) would lie about murder."

Lewis was arrested two weeks after the incident and charged with murder, cruelty to children and aggravated battery, all felonies.

He has remained at the Gwinnett County Jail since then without bond.

Lewis pleaded not guilty to the charges in 2005. But medical evidence presented in earlier hearings disputes that claim, indicating the child showed signs of shaken baby syndrome.

The alleged slaying happened at a home on Woodvalley Trace. Following the injury, the boy was hospitalized at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite.

On June 8, he was pronounced brain dead. Doctors removed him from life support the following day.