A prosecution witness Friday reiterated earlier testimony that newborn Mckenzy Debelbot died of skull fractures and bleeding that could not have resulted from a problematic birth.
Dr. Joseph Zanga, retired Midtown Medical Center chief of pediatrics, testified in a new-trial hearing for Mckenzy’s parents, Albert and Ashley Debelbot, who were convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison on Oct. 29, 2009.
The Debelbots’ attorneys maintain the jury might have reached a different verdict had they heard expert testimony regarding health issues the baby had from birth, instead of hearing only that the infant’s death resulted from abusive head trauma. Defense attorneys called no expert medical witnesses during the couple’s trial.
Zanga’s testimony Friday echoed much of what pediatric radiologist and neuroradiologist Dr. Susan Palasis told Muscogee Superior Court Judge Art Smith III during her testimony Thursday: That the injuries resulting in McKenzy’s death were not present when the mother and child were discharged from Fort Benning’s Martin Army Hospital on May 31, 2008.
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The parents rushed the infant back to the hospital early the next morning, and the baby died within hours.
Palasis testified that her review of the hospital records showed Mckenzy suffered skull fractures and massive bleeding from a “severe traumatic episode,” comparable to what an unrestrained baby would sustain in a car wreck.
Zanga likewise said his review of the case showed the newborn died from severe head trauma, multiple fractures, brain damage and bleeding.
Nothing in the records showed the hospital staff noted evidence of such injuries before the child was discharged, he said. If the baby had such severe head trauma, it would have been obvious, he said.
“A medical student could make the diagnosis,” Zanga said, adding, “This baby would not look well.”
The infant likely would have had a dilated pupil, a wandering eye and a swollen head, and would have been pale and weak, he said. Also doctors and nurses would have been able to feel the fractures in the baby’s skull, in depressions that essentially would have been like holes in her head.
Zanga said he had never seen such trauma result from a difficult delivery. “I have seen this, more times than I care to recall, in children that have been abused and neglected,” he said.
The Debelbots had two days of hearings in mid-July, and the court tentatively set aside Nov. 5 and 6 to continue the testimony, after which Smith is to decide whether the two deserve a new trial.