Jurors convict Chattanooga man of murder, abuse in 2014 child death

Jurors convict Chattanooga man of murder, abuse in 2014 child death

December 8th, 2017 by Zack Peterson in Breaking News

Rhasean Lowry appears before Judge Christie Mahn Sell on charges of homicide in the death of his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter Tatiana Emerson.

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

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Three-year-old Tatiana Emerson died Aug. 27, 2014 from blunt force trauma. Her mother's boyfriend, Rhasean Lowry, 34, has been charged with criminal homicide and is accused of beating her to death.

Three-year-old Tatiana Emerson died Aug. 27, 2014 from...

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

After roughly four hours of deliberation Friday, a Chattanooga jury said a 37-year-old man was guilty of murder and aggravated child abuse in the 2014 death of 3-year-old Tatiana Emerson.

Rhasean Lowry received an automatic life sentence for the murder conviction and will return to Hamilton County Criminal Court Jan. 31 for sentencing on his child abuse charge.

His defense attorney, Dan Ripper, said there were no clear winners.

"Regardless of the jury's verdict, you've lost a 3-year-old who will never come back," Ripper said after the trial. "Whether the defendant wins this case or loses this case, nobody wins."

Prosecutors began trying Lowry on Tuesday, saying video footage and medical testimony would disprove his story about what happened Aug. 26, 2014.

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At the time, Lowry was living at the Econo Lodge on Bonny Oaks Drive with the child's mother, Melanie Emerson, who also faces a pending criminal charge, and three children total.

Lowry told police he went into the lobby to get milk and coffee before the child fell down a flight of stairs that morning, court records show. As he fished a bottle out of the car, Lowry said he watched Tatiana climb the stairs and trip near the top.

Lowry drove her to Parkridge hospital around 10 a.m., but the 3-year-old lost consciousness on the way and died three days later. She had sustained numerous bruises and retinal bleeding.

In closing arguments Friday, prosecutors stuck to their main points: If there was a fall, video footage never showed Lowry getting something from his chair beforehand, as he claimed. Plus, they said, the medical evidence pointed to her having been beaten.

"These are intentional acts," prosecutor Cameron Williams said. "These are 70 blows, 70 inflicted injuries. On the right side of her face, left side of her face, the back of her head. On her trunk, abdomen, back, bottom, legs."

Ripper, however, had a host of arguments and claimed forensic evidence proved parts of his client's story.

The defense attorney said prosecutors couldn't prove Emerson didn't fall down the stairs, and that an independent medical professional found her injuries were consistent with Lowry's account.

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That professional, a former medical examiner in Kansas named Thomas Young, said Emerson's bruising and bleeding could have resulted from going 20 minutes without oxygen followed by hours of intensive medical care.

"Here's an even bigger point that I think should be considered," Ripper said during closing arguments. "If [Lowry's] really trying to disguise this, and trying to make sure nobody finds out, why take her to the hospital at all?"

Prosecutors jumped on both arguments.

"Dr. Young is trying to tell you that [doctors and nurses] are the ones who put these bruises on Tatiana's body," prosecutor Lance Pope said. "That it's associated with medical handling.

"Does that make any sense?" he asked.

Pope said Lowry showed little concern during his interview with police, doubling down on his story while the child's health faltered.

"Does he say one word about Tatiana Emerson, the little girl who's lying in a hospital bed dying?" Pope asked. "Don't believe his lies. Don't be distracted by phony medical proof.

"I'm not asking you to go in that jury room and convict Mr. Lowry because he lied to police," Pope said. "I'm asking you to convict Mr. Lowry because on the morning of Aug. 26 he took that sweet, quiet little girl, and he wrecked her."

Criminal Court Judge Don Poole read charge instructions to jurors around noon, and they worked until 4 p.m. They had the option to convict Lowry of just child abuse and not murder.

Prosecutors also indicted Lowry for rape of a child and false reports in 2014 but dismissed both charges at the beginning of trial this week.

Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at zpeterson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.

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This story was updated on Friday, Dec. 8, 2017 at 11:55 p.m.