Just one witness was called to testify for the prosecution on the fourth day of the first-degree murder trial of Gyasi Campbell, who is accused of killing 2-year-old Kane Friess-Wylie in 2017.
Dr. Philippe Mercier, a pediatric neurosurgeon at Cardinal Glennon Hospital in St. Louis, testified that he operated on the toddler the night he came in with a traumatic brain injury. Assistant State’s Attorneys Bernadette Schrempp and Judy Dalan asked Mercier to take the court through the final moments of Kane’s life.
Mercier told Monroe County Judge Dennis Doyle that Kane was airlifted to Cardinal Glennon from St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Belleville when the toddler’s condition worsened and surgery was recommended. When Kane arrived, he couldn’t open his eyes, speak or react to deep pain, indicating that he had a “catastrophic” brain injury, Mercier said.
The surgery lasted about an hour when the boy’s heart stopped. “Aggressive” CPR was performed in an attempt to save to the toddler, but was abandoned after about 15 minutes, Mercier said. Kane was pronounced dead at 11:44 p.m. on April 13.
During testimony on Tuesday, Dr. Erin Ely, a forensic pathologist, said that when she performed an autopsy on Kane, he had multiple injuries, including bruises on his face, abdomen and arms and legs in addition to the traumatic brain injury. She said that it’s difficult to date bruising, but that the bruises on his body were not likely the result of any medical intervention.
On Thursday, Campbell’s defense lawyers, Justin A. Kuehn and Derek Siegel, asked Mercier if it’s possible that bruises on Kane’s arms, legs and face were the result of the intubation, IVs and the aggressive CPR he received.
“Absolutely,” Mercier said.
The trial will resume at 1 p.m. Friday, when the prosecution is expected to call additional witnesses.
In June, Campbell waived his right to a jury trial. St. Clair County Circuit Judge Zina Cruse was originally assigned to the case, but recused herself from it in November 2018. No reason was given. Doyle was assigned in her place.
The court heard testimony from Kane’s mom, Lindsey Friess, who said she left her son in the care of Campbell, her live-in boyfriend, when she went to a friend’s house for dinner.
Friess said that Campbell told her via text he would give Kane a bath and put him to bed. When she came home a few hours later, Campbell was cradling the toddler in a recliner. Friess said her son’s eyes “didn’t look right” and that he vomited moments after. After Campbell and the friend Friess was with couldn’t revive Kane, the decision was made to take him to the emergency room.
Campbell has given three different accounts of what happened while Friess was gone that night, first telling her Kane fell out of the bathtub and onto the bathroom floor, then that he fell when he was inside the tub. Finally, in a recorded phone conversation from when Campbell was in custody at St. Clair County Jail, he told her Kane had fallen off their kitchen table.
Ely, the medical examiner who performed Kane’s autopsy, testified on that the massive brain injury he had was inconsistent with a fall of less than 6 feet and determined that the manner of his death was homicide.
Doyle listened to testimony from Kane’s father, Teague Wylie Jr., that he’d never seen any bruises or injuries on the toddler during his frequent weekend visits. On the same day, Kane’s 6-year-old brother testified that Campbell had spanked him and his brother on at least one occasion.
The father also said that Kane sometimes came to him with diaper rash, and that he would cry at bath time when the warm water touched his backside. Ely had previously testified that Kane had diaper rash at the time of his death.
Testimony from both Friess and police officers who investigated the case focused on broken glass that Friess said she found in the apartment bathroom the day after Kane’s death, after crime scene technicians had already been through the house.
Friess called Sgt. Jamie Brunnworth of the Illinois State Police to tell her that she’d found the glass and that she was missing a red candle that’s usually in the bathroom. Brunnworth testified that she and other police officers searched the trash in the apartment and in the building’s Dumpster, but were unable to find anything related to the case.
BEHIND OUR REPORTING
Why we did this story
A widespread public awareness campaign followed the death of 2-year-old Kane Friess-Wylie. Driven by countless yard signs and the hashtag #justiceforkane, few trials in recent years have garnered as much public interest as this one. As part of a renewed commitment to courthouse coverage, the BND reported daily on the trial and its outcome.