Highland Park— Graphic testimony and autopsy photos from a medical expert today revealed a 4-year-old boy who starved to death in his aunt and uncle's care was also bound by the wrists and beaten over a long period of time.
"This child was beaten and tortured," Wayne County Medical Examiner Carl Schmidt testified in 30th District Court about the Mother's Day death of Robert Byrd Jr.
After hearing almost three hours of testimony, Judge Brigette Officer ordered Randy Steven Gardner, 32, and his wife, Matilda Jane Brown Gardner, 30, to stand trial on charges of premeditated first-degree murder, felony murder, torture and first-degree child abuse.
The murder charges carry mandatory life sentences without parole. Officer ordered both to continue being held without bond in the Wayne County Jail. Both have been jailed since May 8, the day the boy was found dead.
The boy had been had been in their custody since 2009 after his mother died and his father went to jail.
Highland Park Police Officer Paul Thomas also read a statement in court today that he said Matilda Gardner volunteered after her arrest, claiming her husband beat the boy with a belt and an electric extension cord. She said she tried to stop him, but that the boy angered her husband when he wet himself.
"Randy would beat him with a belt because of it," Thomas said she told him.
Matilda Garner told Thomas the wounds on the boy's wrists weren't caused by binding, but had come from rough play with other children. Thomas said police found handcuffs inside the house.
Both adults insisted in interviews with police that Robert had been fed and ate fast food and chicken soup in the past week with the five other children in the house. Both denied the boy had been deprived of food.
"That's impossible. I fed him along with everyone else," Thomas said Matilda Gardner told him.
Schmidt testified that the boy's height was normal, but his weight of slightly more than 20 pounds was only about half of what should have been expected.
Schmidt also described 14 graphic autopsy photos that showed bruises, healed scars and open infected wounds over 90 percent of the body. There were open and infected wounds around the boy's wrists where Schmidt said he had been bound. Adhesive tape was still wrapped around the red swollen wrists. Schmidt said the boy had signs of long-term exposure to urine and feces.
Schmidt said examination of internal organs showed evidence that the boy had suffered from long-term stress and physical abuse, perhaps over a period of months.
Court-appointed defense lawyers Robert Kinney and Lillian Diallo asked if family reports that the boy had suffered from sickle cell anemia could have contributed to his condition. Schmidt said the boy didn't have sickle cell anemia.
Five other children in the California Street home, including the victim's 6-year-old brother and the Gardners' four sons, were taken by Child Protective Services.