Shoe tread described as 'similar' in child murder case

Kyle Phillips / The Transcript

Jake Ryan Holman is lead into the courtroom Wednesday for the start of his first-degree murder trial at the Cleveland County Courthouse. Holman, is charged with killing the 20-month-old son of his former girlfriend.

An injury pattern on a 20-month-old boy's abdomen and tread from a pair of shoes were described as "similar" by a Norman police forensic technician during testimony Wednesday in a first-degree murder trial.

Cleveland County prosecutors allege Jake Ryan Holman, 28, stomped toddler Maddox Abner to death while the boy's mother, Cydney Cox, was away from the Norman apartment. Cox and Holman were dating at the time.

The boy was killed late Feb. 3, 2017 or during the early-morning hours of Feb. 4, 2017. If convicted, Holman would face a punishment of life in prison or life in prison with parole.

Jeanette Covey, a senior forensic technician with the Norman police department, explained to jurors that she inked the bottom of Holman's shoes and rolled them on acetate, and then compared that impression to an enhanced photograph of the boy's hip and abdomen injuries.

"They (shoes and injuries) were similar in size and shape," Covey testified.

She also told jurors she noticed multiple triangular shapes on the shoes and the abdomen.

However, lead defense attorney Cindy Viol cut into the prosecution's success during cross examination of Covey.

"You have never done this before?" Viol said.

"That's right," Covey replied. Covey told jurors this was the first time she has conducted a test when comparing shoe tread to injury patterns on a body.

Viol also asked Covey if she knew that enhancing a photograph can distort the image.

"It can," Covey said.

The defense team used Covey to continue its attack on the Norman Police Department when the forensic technician admitted hairs found on the boy's body were never tested for DNA evidence. The hairs were retrieved by Covey at the state medical examiner's office and taken back to the Norman Investigative Center where they remain in an evidence locker.

Under questioning, Covey also acknowledged piles of clothes at Holman's apartment were never searched for trace evidence that could have identified the boy's killer.

Covey told jurors she was never instructed by investigators to search for clothes worn by Holman or Cox the night before the toddler was killed. Holman claims he found the boy lying facedown on the floor next to his crib shortly after 8 a.m. on Feb. 4, 2017.

In earlier testimony Wednesday, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Vytautus Ringus labeled the boy's December 2016 broken arm "a pretty extreme fracture." Ringus said that type of injury would require a "fair amount of force." Ringus examined and treated the toddler for the injury.

An ensuing investigation by the Department of Human Services found Holman neglected the boy while under his care. Holman has claimed Maddox broke his arm when he fell from a couch that was 18 inches tall. The child's mother was at work when the injury occurred.

Meanwhile, prosecutors questioned Dr. Ryan Brown about his evaluation of the child's broken arm and death. Brown is a child abuse specialist at The Children's Hospital in Oklahoma City. Initially, Brown said the broken arm was the result of lack of supervision by Holman.

But after receiving new medical information and the autopsy report, Brown changed his opinion that Maddox suffered from physical abuse.

"The types of injuries he had were massive," Brown testified Wednesday.

Prosecutors presented photographs last week that showed the boy's liver and pancreas were split in two pieces, and that his lung and brain were injured from an aggressive attack. The photographs also depicted numerous lacerations, bruises and contusions on several areas of the boy's body.

During cross-examination by Viol, Brown said the toddler's injuries were severe.

"They caused death. Routine handling of a child does not lead to those types of injuries," he said.

On one occasion, Viol tried to imply that Cox put a chokehold on the boy and squeezed him to death. However, Brown replied that squeezing a child would not have caused a liver or pancreas to rip apart.

Edmond police Detective Jason Kushmaul, a specialist in digital forensics, testified late Wednesday that Holman's cell phone was inactive on three occasions during the late night hours of Feb. 3. Holman was left alone with the toddler at the time when Cox went to buy marijuana for the couple.

Testimony by previous witnesses has shown Holman was constantly on his cell phone. However, an analysis of the phone by Kushmaul shows there were three gaps of phone inactivity while Cox was away from the residence buying the marijuana. Those gaps lasted for 15, nine and 13 minutes. Prosecutors have pushed the notion that was when Holman killed the boy.

The trial, presided over by District Judge Jeff Virgin, continues today with more prosecution witnesses scheduled to testify.

Tim Farley366-3539tfarley@normantranscript.com

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