SHERIDAN — Counsel questioned six witness in the first day of a four-day trial for a Sheridan man facing one count of aggravated child abuse in 4th Judicial District Court. Sheridan County Deputy and Prosecuting Attorney Darci Phillips focused on the child’s health before, during and after the incident and attempted to paint a picture of the defendant’s demeanor as told by witnesses who interacted with him.
Four witnesses from the medical field and two of the victim’s family members testified that Robert Clayton Swett’s story was that the child allegedly slipped out of Swett’s hands while he was washing vomit off the 5-month-old in the bathtub on Jan. 12. The following morning, the victim’s grandmother noticed bruising on the child’s head and she suggested Swett take the child to receive medical attention regarding the alleged fall and bruising.
In opening statements, Phillips explained that tests indicated the child, following the incident on Jan. 12, suffered brain bleeding, a skull fracture and retinal hemorrhaging that resulted in seizures in the months following. Defense attorney Erin Wardell said in opening statements that the state failed to mention the vomiting and feeding problems the child had from birth to before the incident occurred.
Several times during examination, Phillips asked witnesses to describe Swett’s the demeanor throughout the medical examinations at Northeast Wyoming Pediatrics, Sheridan Memorial Hospital and the Children’s Hospital Colorado. The witnesses described Swett as nonchalant when describing the incident, as well as defensive and forthright about telling his story of what happened. The medical professionals who testified consistently explained the child’s demeanor following the incident as lethargic, pale and non-reactive in a way that was abnormal for the child’s age.
The radiologist who reviewed the child’s CAT scan explained and showed the jury where the brain bleeding occurred and pointed out the skull fracture on the scans made available by the prosecution through a projector screen. The brain bleeding remained consistent with bruises and scratches on the child’s head as described by the medical professionals and family members who took the stand.
Counsel made it through questioning for six of the 15 total witness listed for the trial. With three more days scheduled, the jury, consisting of three women and 10 men, went into day two of trial at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday. Witnesses still expected to take the stand include four doctors from the Children’s Hospital Colorado, psychologists and Sheridan Police Department’s lead detective on the case, Sgt. Dan Keller.