LAWRENCEVILLE -- During an interrogation, Gwinnett police Detective J. Richter broke the news to Erica Graham that her 3-month-old daughter, Aubrey, had died with serious injuries throughout her body.
Graham, who told police she'd simply found the child unresponsive beside a crib, had almost no reaction to the autopsy findings, Richter testified in her murder trial Thursday.
"It struck me as odd," Richter, the lead investigator, testified. "She didn't seem surprise or shocked."
Graham, 24, is charged with murder in the child's Jan. 9, 2009, death. Aubrey was found dead in an upstairs bedroom of a Sugar Hill apartment Graham shared with her boyfriend, Mitchell Sigler.
Richter testified that Graham lied continually to police, telling them she had almost no contact with Sigler, who had an outstanding arrest warrant. In a text message, Richter said the young mother urged a neighbor to lie -- "The father's name is Justin Wallace, if they ask," Richter said the text read -- and even called around to find out where Sigler was before calling 911.
"Her baby was lying there, presumably dead, and she was making a phone call before calling 911," Richter testified.
By way of interviews and phone records, Richter said investigators backed up Sigler's claims that he was with Aubrey and the couple's other young girl that day, dropping them off at day care and picking them up when Graham got off work. He visited a friend that night, where he was informed the youngest child was dead, Richter said.
Graham was the only person home when authorities found the child dead on arrival.
In later testimony, Gwinnett Medical Examiner Dr. Carole Terry said injuries to Aubrey's brain resembled those associated with vehicle accidents, in that a "rotational force" caused the brain to move and swell.
Terry ruled the death a homicide but said it was impossible to tell if the injuries occurred from shaking or an impact to the head. Elsewhere on the body, Terry documented broken ribs caused by squeezing that were in various states of healing. A fracture to the infant's femur likely occurred within a couple days of her death, Terry testified.
Graham's defense attorney, Deborah Fluker, questioned Terry about the age of the fatal injuries and hemorrhaging about the baby's eyes. Too many variables precluded Terry from estimating a time of death, she said.
Fluker, who contends that Sigler is just as likely to have inflicted the injuries as his girlfriend, will rely heavily on testimony from a pediatrician she'll call as a witness. The pediatrician disagrees with Terry's findings regarding manner and time of death, Fluker said.