Drake custody trial begins
May 19 2010
The Dalles Wahtonka High School sweethearts Kaedyn Drake, 17, and Alexis Garrelts, 18, dreamt of an idyllic life together — marriage, their own place and a beautiful baby they deliberately planned, a police detective testified Tuesday in Wasco County Circuit Court.
“Alexis told me she took off her birth control patch, and Kaedyn was there with her when she did it,” said Det. Scott Sudaisar, a criminal investigator with the Oregon State Police’s major crimes unit. “Kaedyn didn’t use a condom – they planned to get pregnant.”
But soon after Jan. 4, when their son was born, the dream began to unravel, Sudaisar testified during the first day of a two-day dependency trial to determine custody of the infant, whose name is being withheld per The Chronicle’s policy of protecting the identities of victims in abuse cases.
“Alexis said Kaedyn became withdrawn and that she and her mother would really go at it with each other,” the detective said. “She said it was difficult for her because her plans and hopes for a family were falling apart.”
Wasco County Deputy District Attorney Leslie Wolf called Sudaisar and three other witnesses to the stand Tuesday to support her petition to keep the child in the protective custody of the state Department of Human Services. Her case, before Circuit Court Presiding Judge Paul Crowley, will wrap up today, followed by opposing case presentations.
Custody is at issue because Kaedyn Drake, 17, is accused of causing a series of injuries to his son. Those include 11 broken ribs, multiple bruises to the arms, legs and forehead, bleeding in the eyes and mouth, a torn upper frenulum [tissue attaching the lip to the gums] and a brain injury. He is charged with three counts of first-degree assault, three counts of first-degree criminal mistreatment, criminal nonsupport and strangulation.
Drake, who appeared in court Tuesday dressed in casual street clothes instead of the prison attire he wore at the last pretrial hearing, is being held on $250,000 bail at NORCOR regional jail. His trial date is not yet set.
Garrelts, represented by attorney Karen Ostrye, is opposing Wolf’s petition and seeking custody of the child for herself. Robert Raschio, attorney for Drake, said Tuesday his client is also denying the petition and is suggesting custody be given to Drake’s mother Brandy Drake, a corrections sergeant who is divorced from Kaedyn Drake’s father Charles Drake.
Brandy Drake, who is scheduled to testify today, is herself expecting another child, she said during a break in the proceedings.
Sudaisar, continuing his testimony Tuesday, said that Kaedyn Drake agreed to show police what happened with his son in a video re-enactment aired in court Tuesday.
In the video, shot in the garage at OSP’s Portland area headquarters in Milwaukie, Drake showed police that he squeezed the child hard to his chest to try to make him stop crying, and that he turned the baby over and slapped him on the back to discharge vomit from the baby’s mouth.
Drake also demonstrated to police in the video that he pressed down hard on the infant’s chest to wrap him in a swaddling blanket.
“I used way too much force,” he said on the video.
Sudaisar also said that Drake during interviews admitted to wrapping a burp cloth around his fingers and putting the cloth in his son’s mouth to clear out vomit. That action might have torn the child’s frenulum and caused him to stop breathing, creating burst blood vessels in his eyes.
Thomas Valvano, a pediatrician at Doernbecher Childrens Hospital at Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland, also took the stand Tuesday as a witness for Wolf. Valvano, who examined the Drake infant on Feb. 19 after the child was transferred to Doernbecher from his primary health care provider, physician’s assistant Laura McWilliam in The Dalles, is medical director of Doernbecher’s child abuse program.
McWilliam recommended the transfer in light of the infant’s elevated liver enzymes, as seen, Valvano said, in the reports from the child’s Feb. 18 visit to the emergency room of Mid-Columbia Medical Center in The Dalles. MCMC staff sent the child home after the ER visit on Feb. 18, Valvano said.
The baby stayed at Doernbecher for several days, allowing Valvano to perform numerous tests to rule out potential blood or bone diseases that could have caused the child injuries.
On Tuesday, Valvano testified that all the tests were normal. He said he believes the injuries were caused by abuse.
“This kind of bruising of a 6-week-old infant is highly suspicious,” Valvano told the court. “Children that young can’t do anything on their own, so something like that has to be done to them.”
He said the 11 broken ribs could not have been caused by normal patting on the back or by an adult rolling accidentally onto the child in bed.
“For these ribs to break like this, there has to be both anterior and posterior compression, so that the spinal column acts as a fulcrum and the ribs are bent and snap at the fulcrum.”
Similarly, Valvano said the broken blood vessels in the infant’s eyes could not have been caused by excessive vomiting, crying or coughing in a child that young.
“The only other possibilities are suffocation or trauma to the eyes, or choking,” he said.
Bryant said he questioned the couple separately about the child’s injuries and about the stresses they were feeling at home. Drake and Garrelts and the baby were staying with Garrelts’ mother, Sandra Smiggs, and Garrelts’ sister Sarah in an apartment complex on the east side of The Dalles.
He said it was clear from the questioning that Drake did not get along with Smiggs and that, by the same token, Garrelts did not get along with Brandy Drake.
“They said there was a lot of stress in the family,” Bryant said.
Bryant also said he administered a lie-detector test to Kaedyn Drake.
Wolf’s last witness, Oregon State Police Det. Mark Christopher Banks, also of the major crimes unit, described the results of a search warrant he executed at Smiggs’ apartment on Feb. 21. He said he and other police found “diapers, dishes, blankets and garbage” strewn through the living room and “games and movies on the floor.”
Banks, who is based in Pendleton and who is lead investigator in the Drake case, said he found groceries and garbage littering the kitchen table, and the bedrooms full of “debris everywhere.” In the bathroom, he found “cats and a horrendous odor.”
Banks said there were no bugs or rats in the apartment, but “it was cluttered and dirty and there was an odor.”