published Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

Grand jury case in suspected beating death of Marion County baby delayed

Prosecutors and investigators say a grand jury presentation still could be weeks away in the investigation of a Marion County, Tenn., baby's death in June 2012.

The investigation into the death of 3-month-old Colin Eugene Russell is nearing its 20th month.

Marion County Sheriff Ronnie "Bo" Burnett said plans for a grand jury presentation this month were put off so prosecutors in the district attorney's office can meet with investigators. They will determine whether any more work is needed before taking the case forward, he said.

On Monday, District Attorney General Mike Taylor said the meeting between investigators and prosecutors would happen this week or next, but that there was no certainty that the case would go before the March grand jury.

"It's more about doing some interviews and tying up loose ends and trying to get all the information we can on it," Taylor said.

He said it was important to have all the details possible before deciding the case not only was ready to present to the grand jury, but ready to prosecute and to secure a conviction if an indictment is issued. He said he could say more about the likelihood of a March grand jury presentation after his staff and Marion officials meet.

Chris Russell, the baby's father, remains the only "person of interest" in the investigation, authorities say. Russell has never been charged in connection with the baby's death. Authorities say he is living somewhere in Northeast Alabama.

Colin Russell's injuries were immediately described as "suspicious" when the investigation began June 17, 2012. The Sequatchie, Tenn., infant stopped breathing and was taken to Grandview Medical Center in Jasper, Tenn., then transferred to Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville.

Back in November 2013, Marion County Detective Beth Raulston and two of Taylor's prosecutors went to Vanderbilt Hospital to conduct more interviews with the doctor who treated Colin before the family agreed to discontinue life support on June 23, 2012.

A 12-page autopsy report obtained by the Times Free Press last May that lists the manner of death as "homicide" notes contusions on the child's head, injuries that included blood clotting in several areas of his brain and "extensive" hemorrhaging in the optic nerves of both eyes.

Colin also had at least 15 fractures of his ribs and a fractured right clavicle, along with a ligament injury on his spine that appeared to have been healing, according to the report. The autopsy also contained statements from Russell and the baby's mother, Leah Collins, about injuries the infant suffered in the weeks preceding his initial hospitalization.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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