The Edmond Sun

Local News

February 2, 2013

Sides rest in Edmond child murder trial

(Continued)

EDMOND — CHANGING STORIES

Among the witnesses was Edmond Police Detective Michael Chesley, a 16-year veteran with the Edmond Police Department. Chesley has been in the courtroom since the start of the trial, sitting at the prosecution table.

At about 6 p.m. Oct. 13, 2009, Chesley responded to a call about a child not breathing at the Rolling Green apartment complex, 400 E. Danforth Rd., where Sara Babakhani, Jolen’s mother, and the child were living with Berry.

Chesley was assisted by Detective Mark Oak, who went to the hospital to gather information and talk to Jolen’s mother. Chesley learned Berry was Jolen’s sole caregiver that day. Due to suspicious bruising, Chesley suspected there was more to the story than what was initially reported.

Berry voluntarily accompanied Chesley to the police station where he was signed in as a visitor. They went into an interview room. The jury watched a roughly 2-hour video of the interview. The first hour was of Chesley and Berry, the second after Oak had returned from the hospital.

In the video, Berry is heard telling three different stories about what happened that afternoon.

At about 4 p.m. he said he put Jolen down for an afternoon nap. When he went back to check on the child, he found the toddler’s lips were purple. He called Sara to tell her what he found as she was arriving from school at Langston University. They rushed to the car, but saw several police officers there on another matter.

Several times, Berry was asked if there had been any wrestling or rough housing with Jolen. Each time he said there had not. When asked if he ever disciplined Jolen he said had not. Chesley asked him if Sara trusted him with her son. He said she did.

“I treat her son the same way I treat my daughter,” Berry said.  

Chesley reviews the timeline. Berry’s responses are virtually the same. Again he denies there was any rough housing. “What do you think happened to him?”  the detective asked.

“I have no idea,” Berry said.

He said when he laid Jolen down he was fine. Then he said he should have been watching him the way he watches his daughter.  

Detective Oak returns from the hospital where he spoke with Jolen’s mother. Oak said Jolen’s not doing well, not well at all.

“This is going to be a big deal for you,” Oak said.

The detectives press Berry, explain that Jolen did not injure himself this severely. They encouraged him to come clean, tell them what happened. They continue to press him as he remained silent.

“I don’t know if he’s going to make it through the night,” Oak said.

The detectives tell Berry they don’t think he’s a bad person. They think things got out of hand. They urged him to tell the truth for the mother’s sake, for his sake. Chesley said Jolen didn’t stop breathing on his own.  

“Be honest and tell us what happened,” Chesley said.

After saying he didn’t do anything, Berry claims Jolen fell down the stairs outside the second story apartment. The detectives say the story doesn’t agree with the injuries — bruising on the neck below the jawline, bruising on his forehead and back and bleeding in and on his brain.

Berry described picking up Jolen and throwing him down onto the couch, bouncing off the cushion and falling onto the floor. The process was repeated after Jolen said he was OK, Berry said. One time, Jolen’s head hit the coffee table, he said.

The state medical examiner’s office ruled Jolen’s death was a homicide, resulting from head trauma, causing a subdural hematoma. A subdural hematoma is a type of blood clot or clots that often result from a skull fracture. As Marc Harrison, a forensic pathologist with the state medical examiner’s office testified, jurors viewed a series of graphic autopsy photographs depicting exterior injuries and injuries inside Jolen’s skull.

Medical personnel attending to Jolen did not believe based on the extensive bruising and damage to the toddler’s head that the injuries could have been caused accidentally, witnesses testified. At the hospital, it was learned the toddler did not have any type of brain activity.

Jurors also heard from Morris Gessouroun, M.D., a pediatric critical care specialist at The Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center. Gessouroun testified about Jolen’s absence of brain or brainstem function, about retinal hemorrhaging, abnormal bleeding of the vessels in his retinas, the inside surfaces of the back of the eye, the bruising and the subdural hematoma, a collection of blood on the surface of the brain and brain swelling.

When asked if those injuries would be consistent with Berry’s description of rough housing Gessouroun said they were not, that more force would be needed.

marks@edmondsun.com | 341-2121, ext. 108

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