Third day of ‘Justice For Kane’ trial, toddler’s dad and brother testify
The defense lawyers for Gyasi Campbell, who is on trial for first-degree murder in the killing of 2-year-old Kane Friess-Wylie in 2017, did not call any witnesses after Campbell chose not to testify Friday.
The prosecution, led by Assistant State’s Attorneys Bernadette Schrempp and Judy Dalan, rested its case after calling its final witness on Friday afternoon, Dr. MariaTeresa Tersigni-Tarrant, a forensic anthropologist who examined Kane’s bones following his April 13 death.
Her testimony supported other experts who determined Kane died of blunt force trauma.
Terisigni-Tarrant testified to Judge Dennis Doyle that there was only one fracture on the toddler’s body—a fracture on the occipital bone on the back of the skull that was caused at or near his time of death. She said there were no old or healing fractures on his body.
Because the fracture went all the way through the occipital bone — the strongest, thickest, most protected bone of the skull, she said — it had to have been caused by blunt force, Terisigini-Tarrant said. Though she could not determine what object caused the fracture, she said “this fracture is not consistent with an accidental type of fall.”
Campbell has given three different accounts of what happened the night Kane was left in his care when the boy’s mother, Lindsey Friess, left their shared apartment on April 13. He first told Friess that Kane fell out of the bathtub and onto the bathroom floor while Campbell was giving him a bath before bed.
Later, at Cardinal Glennon Hospital in St. Louis, where Kane was pronounced dead after an unsuccessful neurosurgery, Campbell told a social worker the toddler fell while inside of the bathtub.
Finally, in a recorded phone conversation from when he was in custody at St. Clair County Jail, Campbell told Friess that Kane fell off their kitchen table when he placed the boy there after his bath.
Closing arguments from the prosecution and Campbell’s defense lawyers, Justin A. Kuehn and Derek Siegel, will be presented Monday morning.
In June, Campbell waived his right to a jury trial. St. Clair County Court 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.
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.
The broken glass and missing red candle were not mentioned any further in the trial.
Dr. Philippe Mercier, a pediatric neurosurgeon at Cardinal Glennon Hospital, testified that he operated on Kane the night he came in with a “catastrophic” traumatic brain injury. He told the court that the surgery lasted about an hour, and when the toddler’s heart stopped, they performed aggressive CPR in an attempt to revive him.
Kane was pronounced dead at 11:44 p.m. on April 13.
When the defense lawyers asked Mercier if it was possible the bruises on Kane’s body could have been the result of intubation, IVs and the aggressive CPR he received, Mercier said it “absolutely” could.
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 will report daily on the trial and its outcome.