New trial begins for mother on same child abuse charge

New trial begins for mother on same child abuse charge

April 3rd, 2013 by Todd South in Local Regional News

Monica Hammers waits for her pretrial hearing in Judge Barry Steelman's courtroom in February.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

The 43-year-old mother of a toddler began her second trial on charges she attempted to smother her son while he was being treated for digestive problems at Erlanger hospital.

Monica Dawn Hammers originally was arrested and indicted on charges of attempted first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse after a hospital worker told police she covered her son's face with a pillow.

But as the first trial began in September 2012, Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman ruled that there wasn't enough evidence to proceed on the murder charge.

So prosecutor Charlie Minor went to trial on the aggravated child abuse charge. After nearly two days of deliberations the jury could not reach a verdict.

The second trial, which began Tuesday, is on the charge of attempted aggravated child abuse.

Minor told the jury that the trial is about what happened when Hammers tried to smother her son on May 5, 2011.

"But it begins way before this; it begins with the conception of her child," Minor said.

He told jurors that this all spilled out of a nasty custody battle between Hammers and her ex-husband. Minor claims that Hammers denied her son food and initiated medical child abuse by taking him to the hospital unnecessarily.

A volunteer sitter was in the room with Hammers and her son when, Minor said, Hammers got frustrated and covered her son's face with a pillow.

"And when she realized the sitter was there, she quit," Minor said.

Defense attorney Harry Christensen countered that the history of the parent's conflict, custody battles and previous unsubstantiated child abuse claims all help his client.

He attacked previous testimony by the sitter, which he said showed no evidence that Hammers covered the boy's face other than in a quick game of peek-a-boo. He also said there is no evidence of injury to the boy.

"How do you intend to try and smother a child by shaking a pillow [over his face]?" Christensen. "Mr. Minor said, 'She stopped when she saw the sitter.' Well the sitter was there all day.'"

"What happened here is a woman's life has been completely turned upside-down and you'll be the ones who decide whether she deserves it or not," Christensen said.

The trial is set to resume this morning.

Contact staff writer Todd South at tsouth@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him @tsouthCTFP.