DECATUR - Savannah Pickett, the 17-year-old mother of Amarrius Rice, the 5-month old boy who died from blunt force to his head and torso last month, pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder at her preliminary hearing.
During the hearing Wednesday morning in the courtroom of Associate Judge James Coryell, details emerged about the circumstances surrounding the death of the infant.
Pickett, who has been held in the Macon County Jail on $500,000 bond since her arrest Sept. 28, sat at the defense table with public defender Greg Mattingley.
Decatur police detective Brad Allen testified that an aunt of Pickett's had custody of the baby during the last 30 hours of his life.
Amarrius suffered injuries, including a fractured skull, lacerated liver and bleeding along his spinal cord, during the night of Sept. 15 and morning of Sept. 16. He was pronounced dead at Decatur Memorial Hospital at 3:24 a.m. Sept. 18.
The aunt or her boyfriend called 911 on Sept. 18, when they thought something was wrong with the way the baby was breathing.
Allen testified that Pickett said she was alone with the baby when he was injured. She claimed the injuries were accidental.
She claimed the multiple skull fractures resulted from dropping him on the floor. At the time of the incident, Pickett and her son were at a home in the 1300 block of East Condit Street, which she listed as her residence on a court form.
The detective said Pickett initially denied that she had struck the child but later acknowledged she dropped him on the floor, shook him and punched him.
Pickett told police she struck him five to seven times in the stomach in a playful manner, but three of the times she probably struck him too hard, Allen testified.
Under cross-examination, Mattingley asked Allen if officers had asked Pickett if she knew the consequences of shaking a child.
"She indicated she knows you're not supposed to shake a child," Allen said, adding that Pickett said she had previously shaken Amarrius.
According to the autopsy report, the bleeding along the spinal column resulted from the baby being violently shaken.
When the judge asked Pickett, who sat silently through the hearing, whether she understood that she must appear in court in the future, she nodded. Coryell then asked her to reply out loud. In a voice just above a whisper, she said, "Yes."
Pickett, who was assigned an assistant public defender, is scheduled to appear in circuit court for a pretrial hearing Nov. 17.