Two-year-old Alexander Buss would have had to fall out a third-story window to receive the injuries he eventually died from.
That, or someone would have had to shake the toddler, throw him against a wall or strike him with a powerful blow.
That was the testimony of a Spokane pediatrician during Kevin Merwin’s preliminary hearing Friday.
Judge Patrick McFadden ordered Merwin to stand trial on a charge of injury to a child.
Merwin, 23, of Athol, was babysitting on July 18 and says Alexander fell off a bed. The toddler died the next day.
“A fall of this type would not cause these injuries,” said Dr. Debra Harper, who examined the boy shortly before he died. “This is the sort of injury we would see in a three- or four-story fall onto a hard surface.”
At Merwin’s preliminary hearing Friday, detectives testified that Merwin had recently been under stress and didn’t want to baby-sit Alexander the day the boy died.
Meanwhile Merwin’s attorney asked the judge to dismiss the felony charge. “Put an end to this nonsense,” Fred Loats said. “They don’t know how the injury was inflicted. It’s pure speculation.”
In the end, Judge Patrick McFadden ordered Merwin to stand trial on a charge of injury to a child. If convicted, he could face up to 10 years in prison.
Michelle Buss, Alexander’s mother, has been living with Merwin at his parents’ Athol home. Alexander, his 4-year-old sister, along with Merwin’s three daughters from a previous marriage, also spend part of their time at the home.
On July 18, baby-sitting plans had fallen through for the children. Michelle Buss left Alexander and the four other children at home with Merwin so she could go to work.
Merwin told officials that in the afternoon he decided to put the boy down for a nap and sat him on top of a bed. The toddler stood up and then toppled over backward off the bed, Merwin told a sheriff’s deputy. The boy soon threw up and and lost consciousness and Merwin called for help.
Michelle Buss, who has backed up Merwin’s story, told a judge Friday that she believes her son may have hit his head on a window sill or dresser as he fell.
But on Friday, Dr. Harper told the judge that she believes Alexander’s injuries were not accidental.
Bruises marked the boy’s lower lip, ear, stomach and back when she examined him.
Blood vessels in Alexander’s eyes had burst, his brain was swelling and bleeding. His head suffered internal and external injuries. Such extreme damage to the boy’s head could only be caused by a severe blow or a fall from 30 feet or higher - not from falling off a bed onto a carpeted floor, she said.
“If that fall caused that kind of injury, all of us would have died when we were two years old,” she said.
Merwin told sheriff’s officials he was upset because his ex-wife had just remarried and he was unhappy that he had to stay home that day to babysit the children, said Kootenai County sheriff’s Detective Kent Johnston.
“He indicated he was unhappy because he should be the one earning the wages and his girlfriend should be caring for the children,” Johnston said.
In 1993, Merwin was taken to Kootenai Medical Center after he shot himself with a gun, according to a sheriff’s report. Family members told the deputies he had been violent and they were fearful of him doing something to them.
Alexander’s father, Donald Buss, along with his friends and family wore pins bearing the boy’s pictures throughout the hearing Friday.
“I know he did it, I know it in my heart,” Donald Buss said, tears welling in his eyes. Nearby, Merwin and a group of family and friends laughed as they watched Buss talking about his son’s death.
Merwin and Michelle Buss left the court room hand in hand. They both declined to comment.
However, friends of the Merwin family defended Kevin and his parents.
“They’re the nicest people we’ve met,” said a woman who asked that her name not be used. “I just have a hard time believe he would do something like that.”
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