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A McMinn County, Tenn., man will have an opportunity on May 11 to defend himself against child rape and murder charges after seven years and eight delays in the case.

Mitchell Delashmitt is charged with raping and killing his 15-month-old daughter, Angel, after she was found floating in a farm pond in 2003.

A court hearing Monday firmly set the May 11 date for trial.

Prosecutors say Mr. Delash-mitt took brutal steps toward Angel's death, including shaking, raping and eventually drowning the baby.

"There's a lot of evidence from a lot of different witnesses, from the family to police officers to forensic folks involved," McMinn County District Attorney Jim Stutts said.

But the defendant's attorney tells a different story, claiming that Mr. Delashmitt is guilty only of negligent homicide.

"The truth is that he fell asleep at the switch and his child walked in the water and fell in the pond and died," John Eldridge said. "He's guilty of it. He knows it."

A credibility issue surrounds the state's primary medical witness, Ronald Toolsie, the former Bradley County medical examiner who conducted the child's autopsy.

Dr. Toolsie's license was suspended last year after an investigation into malpractice allegations related to Mr. Delashmitt's case.

The doctor also is scheduled to appear today in Hamilton County Criminal Court to address one count of unlawful distribution of a controlled substance, one count of failure to keep required records of controlled substances and one count of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud.

The substances all are prescription drugs he may have obtained through professional connections, records show.

Mr. Stutts dismissed the notion that the drug charges could discredit his key medical witness.

"I wish he didn't have the problem, but he does," he said. "We'll present Dr. Toolsie in whatever status he's in at the time."

Mr. Eldridge was more blunt in his feelings about Dr. Toolsie, who was implicated in a state health department complaint that said he "demonstrated ignorance" in diagnosing shaken baby syndrome.

"We will not accept his autopsy conclusions at all," Mr. Eldridge said.

Mr. Stutts implied that too much attention has been focused on Dr. Toolsie and his embattled status.

"I regret that the case, which should be about this little girl, is going to become a medical malpractice trial," he said.

He said his case has enough evidence, mentioning three separate confessions Mr. Delashmitt made to two Athens, Tenn., police officers and a fellow inmate during his jail time.

Mr. Eldridge rebuffed the district attorney's claims.

Continue reading by following these links to related stories:

Article: Ex-medical examiner's hearing delayed

Article: Trial postponed again for father accused in rape, killing

Article: Dad going to trial in tot's death

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