Father arrested in 2012 Marion infant death

photo Christopher Eugene Russell

An arrest has been made in the 2012 death of 3-month-old Marion County, Tenn., infant Colin Russell.

Officials said Chris Russell, the baby's father, has been charged in Whitfield County on a fugitive from justice warrant stemming from homicide charges in Marion County.

Russell has been a person of interest in the case since the investigation began in June 2012.

Marion County Sheriff Ronnie "Bo" Burnett said Russell has a grand jury indictment charging him with first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse waiting for him in Marion County.

"We don't know if he's going to fight extradition or not," Burnett said Wednesday about an hour and half after the arrest. "We'll just have to wait and see."

The sheriff said Russell was arrested without incident with help from Whitfield County deputies.

Detective Beth Raulston, "put a lot of time in on it and she's done a good job," Burnett said. "It's been a long time coming."

The baby'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.

A 12-page autopsy report by Dr. Bridget B. Eutenier, the associate medical examiner who performed the autopsy in Nashville on June 24, 2012, lists the cause of death as a homicide. It 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 fractured right clavicle, along with a ligament injury on his spine that appeared to have been healing, the report states.

Raulston, 12th Judicial District Attorney General Mike Taylor and two assistant district attorneys went to Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville several months ago to interview the doctor who treated Colin before the family agreed to discontinue life support on June 23, 2012, authorities said.

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"The injuries seen in this case involving multiple areas of the body in varying stages of healing are consistent with repeated non-accidental trauma and a diagnosis of battered child syndrome," Eutenier states in the report's summary.

The Whitfield County Detention Center listed Russell in custody on a fugitive warrant with no bond.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@times freepress.com or twitter.com/BenBenton or www.facebook.com/ben.benton1 or 423-757-6569.

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