published Thursday, May 29th, 2014

2 years after a baby was beaten to death in Marion County, still no arrest has been made

A battered-baby death in Marion County, Tenn., now is almost 2 years old, and no charges have been filed.

The probe into the June 2012 battering death of 3-month-old Colin Eugene Russell is ongoing, according to Marion County authorities.

12th Judicial District Attorney Mike Taylor says there are still some important details to conclude before the case can be presented to a grand jury.

Officials had said in December 2013 that they were readying the case for a presentation to the grand jury in February of this year.

Taylor said Tuesday that he couldn't discuss the details of what was still needed but that he wanted "all our ducks in a row" before the case moves forward.

"All I can say is it's still under investigation," Taylor said.

Sheriff Ronnie "Bo" Burnett said he'll discuss the case with Taylor to see what remains to be done.

"I'd like to get this case wrapped up and get it presented to a grand jury as soon as we can," Burnett said. The next Marion County grand jury meets on Monday.

The baby's father, Chris Russell, remains the only "person of interest" in the case, Burnett and Taylor said.

Russell and the boy's mother, Leah Collins, each are around 25 years old now. Collins has never been named as a person of interest in the investigation.

The 12-page medical examiner's report by Dr. Bridget B. Eutenier, the associate medical examiner who performed the autopsy in Nashville on June 24, 2012, described the cause of death as "blunt-force injuries of the head and neck," the circumstances of the death as "battered-child syndrome" and the manner of death as "homicide."

Taylor said the report's term, "homicide," is misleading as far as prosecution goes, and might more accurately be described as "nonaccidental."

The 3-month-old was transported by ambulance to Grandview Medical Center in Jasper, Tenn., when he became unresponsive on June 17, 2012, Eutenier's report states. The baby then was taken Vanderbilt Children's Hospital in Nashville for treatment, but he died a week later.

The report describes numerous injuries.

Colin Russell had bruising in several places on his head, hemorrhaging in his brain, retina and optic nerve sheaths, multiple rib fractures on both sides, a large fracture in his right clavicle and spinal injuries, the report states. Some of the rib fractures appeared to be healing and others more recent.

"The injuries ... are consistent with repeated nonaccidental trauma and a diagnosis of battered-child syndrome," Eutenier stated in the report.

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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