Tuesday, jurors got to hear from Terry Sturgis – in his own words – for the first time during his murder trial. Prosecuting attorneys played more than two hours of a very long interrogation with Sturgis that began about three hours after his 10-year-old son Tramelle was rushed to the hospital not breathing and without a pulse.
It was difficult to hear exactly what Sturgis was saying during most of that interview, but at one point Sturgis said “I love my kids to death.”
He also asked to speak with his mother, who was being questioned in a separate room. At first, he would only admit to hitting his kids with a belt and back scratcher. Then later he admitted to hitting one of them with a “stick.”
During the videotaped interrogation, when a detective asked Sturgis “Do you feel bad about [the injuries to your son?]” He replied “If you don’t discipline them while they’re little, then they’ll grow up and be out of control.”
Judge Jane Woodward Miller told jurors the only parts of the video they could consider as evidence were statements made by Sturgis.
That means they cannot consider any of what Metro Homicide detectives said ... including “This is long-term abuse, we’ve seen this before,” and “Be a man, admit you did it so your kids don’t have to take the stand and testify against you.”
The pathologist who examined Tramelle’s body after he died also testified Tuesday. Dr. Pamela Archuletta said she ruled his cause of death blunt force trauma ... consistent with an injury to his head and swelling in his brain. She ruled the manner of death a homicide.
After saying he had too many external bruises, scrapes and marks to count, Archuletta detailed many of the boy’s internal injuries ... including hemorrhaging in his brain, fractures in his skull, a broken left arm, a broken right arm in the process of healing, a broken tail bone and a broken rib on the back side of his body.
“[A broken posterior rib] comes from significant blunt force,” she testified. “A younger person with a more viable skeleton, it would seem like it would take a lot more force to break that rib. It was not just a push or a shove.”
In court, defense attorney Jeff Kimmell has argued Tramelle died after he fell down a flight of stairs and choked on his own vomit, which blocked his airway. Archuletta said, in her opinion, a fall down the stairs could cause some of the injuries, but she did not believe that’s what killed the boy.
Kimmell grilled Archuletta during cross examination.
“Were you aware that the emergency room physician noted there was aspiration in Tramelle’s airway?” he asked.
“I was,” she replied.
“Were you aware that he was unable to get a tube down Tramelle’s throat to intubate him?” Kimmell continued.
“No,” she answered.
“And then he saw vomit and vacuumed the vomit out, were you aware of that?” Kimmell asked.
“No,” she said.
But, Archuletta added, she did not see microscopic evidence of vomit and even if she did, it would not change the cause of death.
The pediatrician who examined Terry Sturgis’ 8- and 14-year-old sons two weeks after Tramelle died, Dr. Tom Soisson, also testified Tuesday about their injuries.
He said some of the burn marks are permanent and will stay with them forever.
TRIAL RESUMES 10 a.m. WEDNESDAY
When the trial resumes Wednesday, the jury will watch the rest of the long Metro Homicide interrogation with Terry Sturgis and then hear closing arguments. Sturgis’ dialysis schedule is affecting when jurors will begin deliberations.
The plan is for closing arguments to happen Wednesday afternoon, but since Sturgis has dialysis from 5 to 10 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, Woodward Miller was worried about jurors reaching their decision then “holding them hostage” until Sturgis returns to the courthouse.
She decided it would be best to read jurors instructions and send them to deliberate Thursday morning.