Trial starts for Troy woman charged in her baby’s death

By Colin Ellis, centralmaine.com | Oct 31, 2017
Defendant Miranda Hopkins of Troy, left, enters Waldo County Superior Court in Belfast with her attorney Laura Shaw on Tuesday. Centralmaine.com staff photo by David Leaming

The manslaughter trial of Miranda Hopkins began Tuesday morning with the prosecution and defense delivering opening statements in a case surrounding the death of the woman’s baby.

Hopkins, 32, of Troy, has been charged with felony manslaughter, punishable by up to 30 years in prison, in the death of her 7-week-old son, Jaxson. Her trial got underway Oct. 31 in Waldo County Superior Court in Belfast.

When an audio tape of her 911 call to police was played in the courtroom, Hopkins broke down crying and her attorney, Laura Shaw, comforted her.

State prosecutors and defense lawyers paint different pictures of what happened to Jaxson. The prosecution contends that Hopkins didn’t intend to kill her son, but that she may have been criminally negligent.

The defense maintains that one of Hopkins’ other two sons killed the baby.

In her opening statement, Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea said Jaxson died not from natural causes or some tragic accident, but rather as a result of blunt force trauma. She outlined Hopkins’ day on Jan. 11, Jaxson’s last day alive: Hopkins saw her two sons off on the school bus, ran an errand with a friend, made dinner, and consumed alcohol. Jaxson was with her for the entire day.

Hopkins put the two other boys to bed on the other side of the trailer before bringing Jaxson into her room, Zainea continued, and though Hopkins contends she is a light sleeper, at no point in the night did she recall feeling someone come into the room or climb onto her bed, where her infant son was located. Hopkins did not report hearing her son cry out at any point, Zainea said. When Hopkins woke up around 1:30 a.m., she reached out, and when she felt for her son, she felt his cold and stiff arm, Zainea said.

When paramedics arrived, Zainea said, the boy had suffered multiple skull fractures, broken ribs and other injuries.

Zainea said the state did not have to prove motive, but under state law, persons are guilty of manslaughter when they recklessly or with criminal negligence cause another person’s death.

“Your common sense and reason tell you no one entered the bedroom,” the prosecutor said, and no one else injured Jaxson either in the bed or after removing him from the bed.

Christopher MacLean, attorney for Hopkins, said the truth about what happened to Jaxson “is hidden in plain sight for all the world to see.” He said in the “chilling and haunting” 911 call Hopkins made to police, the jury could hear that Hopkins did not kill her baby. In the recording, played by both the prosecution and defense, Hopkins can be heard sobbing and wailing, crying out for help and asking why this happened.

MacLean described the difficult life Hopkins had led, one of poverty with two severely autistic sons, but he said Hopkins was a loving and caring mother, as evidenced by signs and symbols of love. However, the trailer home was also evidence of a life far from normal. The home was retrofitted with locks and barricades to keep Hopkins’ two autistic sons from getting out of the house or breaking into the refrigerator or pantry.

Hopkins consumed alcohol earlier in the day, as well as marijuana and Benadryl for congestion, MacLean said, and as she was putting her sons to bed, she fell asleep on their bedroom floor with Jaxson still out on the couch and not in her bedroom. When she woke, she was experiencing gall bladder pain as well as the lingering effects from alcohol.

“She turned on the lights and was greeted by a nightmare,” MacClean said.

In January, Hopkins called 911 from her home in Troy, saying her infant son was unresponsive. The baby was pronounced dead at the scene. The cause of the baby’s death is listed as blunt force head injuries.

Hopkins told authorities she woke up to find her baby cold, white, and “beat to hell.” She said it was possible one of her two older boys may have crawled into bed with her and the baby and crushed or suffocated him.

She also told authorities that she must have “blacked out” and was “so drunk that she did not remember,” according to a police affidavit.

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