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Man suspected in beating death of 2-year-old girl tells jurors he’s innocent

UPDATED: Mon., June 19, 2017, 5:45 p.m.

Jason Obermiller takes a break during his homicide trail, June 8, 2017, at the Spokane County Courthouse. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Jason Obermiller takes a break during his homicide trail, June 8, 2017, at the Spokane County Courthouse. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Jason Obermiller, the man suspected of beating a 2-year-old girl to death on Spokane’s South Hill last summer, told jurors Monday he did not kill his ex-girlfriend’s daughter.

“Did you kill Adalynn Hoyt,” asked defense attorney Brian Raymon after a round of questioning.

“No, I did not,” Obermiller responded.

Obermiller is accused of killing Adalynn, who witnesses say was left under his care on Sept. 11 while her mother, Lovina Rainey, partied and did drugs with another man.

The 33-year-old was the last witness to take the stand in his two-week-long trial.

Earlier witnesses identified Obermiller as the last person to see Adalynn alive. But in court Monday, Obermiller said he and Rainey put the toddler to bed together. While he said goodnight to her, Rainey was several feet away in her room getting high, he said.

“I turned off the TV and said goodnight,” he said from the stand. “She was being a little girl, playing on the bed.”

He said a man named Anthony “Stranger” Bettcher, a drug gang member Rainey had been seeing, showed up at the house and asked for a syringe to shoot up drugs. And while Bettcher and Rainey were getting high in her room, he said he left with his friend and roommate Dillan Fithen, who also testified on behalf of Obermiller.

“She loved him very much,” Fithen said, saying Obermiller was like a father to Adalynn. “She clung to him.”

He said the night before Adalynn’s body was discovered on Sept. 12, he and Obermiller discussed calling Child Protective Services due to large bruises found on Adalynn’s body.

“It made me feel a little sick to my stomach seeing it,” Fithen said. “She didn’t look happy.”

In her testimony and in discussions with detectives, Rainey said one of the bruises was from when Adalynn was jumping on a trampoline and fell onto the metal ring. Obermiller also admitted to never having seen Rainey hit her kids or physically abuse them. Rainey denied ever hitting her kids in court last week.

The state challenged the timeline of events as described by Fithen and Obermiller, and brought up several times how nobody was near Obermiller while he was upstairs putting Adalynn to bed. They also brought up text messages, which Obermiller deleted, that were sent to Fithen before they left the house around midnight, saying they had to go “now.”

Prosecuting attorney Jennifer Zappone also grilled Obermiller for close to an hour, focusing heavily on the story he gave to detectives when he was interviewed after he was found in a secluded cabin near Lake Coeur d’Alene.

She questioned his actions after discovering Adalynn’s death, which was to not return to the house, to not return calls to Rainey, to turn his phone off and remove the battery, and to get high with Fithen before driving him back to his car and cutting ties with everyone staying at the home.

“Mr. Obermiller, you were supposed to be a father figure,” Zappone said. “You never once called.”

Jurors also heard an interview between Rainey and Spokane Police Detective Michael Drapeau the afternoon Adalynn’s body was found cold and rigid. Rainey was clearly distraught and crying in the recording, saying several times that she wanted her baby back.

“Jason loves her, he favors her, he always has” she told Drapeau. “But I don’t think anybody would hurt my baby.

The trial is expected to end Tuesday, after the state and defense deliver closing arguments. It will then go to the jury for deliberation.

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