The sexual assault and murder trial of Benjamin Taylor began Wednesday and included testimony from the mother of the 10-month-old victim, as well as from the medical examiner who ruled her death a homicide.
Amanda Adkins was one of several witnesses who took the stand as testimony got underway in the court of Jackson County Circuit Judge Craig Tatterson.
Taylor, 34, is accused of sexually assaulting Adkins' daughter, Emmaleigh Barringer, sometime overnight between Oct. 2 and Oct. 3, 2016. The prosecution also alleges Taylor caused the blunt-force head trauma that led to Barringer's death on Oct. 5 at Charleston Area Medical Center when her family asked that she be taken off of life support.
It was revealed in court that on the night of the alleged assault Adkins quickly suspected Taylor had done something to the girl. She told the court she found Taylor kneeling over the naked baby shirtless with his pants unbuttoned. It appeared he was wiping her off with a towel or blanket, she said.
During questioning by Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney Katie Franklin, Adkins testified to punching Taylor in the face, taking the baby in her arms, and going upstairs to call 911. She grabbed a blanket because the baby was "freezing" and testified that the girl was lethargic and wasn't breathing normally.
The prosecution played two separate 911 recordings from the morning of Oct. 3. The first was from when Adkins called 911 shortly before 5 a.m., and the second was from when a 911 dispatcher called her back after Adkins disconnected the call.
On the recordings, a frantic Adkins could be heard shouting expletives, accusations, and threats at Taylor.
"I'm going to kill you," she said. "I think he (expletive) raped her."
Adkins continued to make several similar statements throughout the recordings.
"What the (expletive) were you doing?" she said. "Why is she naked?"
"Why is she naked, Benji? Why do you have blood on you?" Adkins said on the recording.
Adkins testified that her baby was unresponsive in her arms while the ordeal unfolded.
West Virginia Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Allen Mock said Barringer sustained head injuries that could have only been caused by blunt-force trauma, which means the head struck something hard or something hard was used to strike the head. He testified that the girl sustained a three-inch skull fracture.
Mock said the victim had a number of other injuries, from bruising around her eyes to severe vaginal tearing that caused bleeding that contributed to her death.
Conducting his opening statement, defense attorney Tim Rosinsky said investigators were "myopic" and too quick to arrest Taylor without eliminating other possibilities. He also said he would point out forensic inconsistencies that would raise concerns and doubt about Taylor's guilt.
Not only were investigators too single-minded in their focus, but they also did not follow up when additional evidence was presented, Rosinsky said.
"I will cast aspersions on how quickly the case was wrapped up and take issue with what they did when there was new evidence," he said.
Testimony is set to resume at 9 a.m. Thursday.
Look for additional coverage in Friday's edition of The Jackson Star News.