Kian Stevens died at the Ann Arbor hospital on Aug. 19. His father, Adam Benjamin Stevens, 28, is charged with first-degree murder and first-degree child abuse. He was in court Thursday for a preliminary examination before Jackson County District Court Judge Michael Klaeren.
“It’s my opinion that the child died from abusive head injuries,” Dr. Jeffrey Jentzen, a pathologist at UM who performed an autopsy on Kian, told Klaeren.
Jentzen testified Thursday that Kian had bleeding in and around his brain and eyes, injuries to his brain and other injuries such as broken ribs and bruises around his jaw.
He added the injuries were not accidents and classified Kian’s death as a homicide.
Police believe Kian was crying just after midnight on Aug. 19, and Stevens violently shook him, causing the baby to stop breathing, according to previous reports. Kian was first taken to Allegiance Health then flown to UM where he died around 5 p.m.
At the Ann Arbor hospital, both Stevens and Crystal Anderson, Kian’s mother, spoke with Dr. Bethany Mohr, director of the UM child protection team. Mohr said Thursday that based on her conversations with the parents and a medical examination of Kian, the baby died of abusive head injuries caused by either shaking, an impact to the head or both.
Stevens and Anderson were with Kian at the couple’s Blackman Township apartment they shared.
Whatever type of injury killed Kian, it happened shortly before his death, not days before, Mohr said.
During Mohr and Anderson’s conversation, Anderson said she had seen Stevens be rough with Kian in the past, including shaking him. The behavior concerned her, and she asked Stevens to stop.
Stevens told Mohr Kian was “moving funny” in his crib when he went into the living room. He picked Kian up and held him over his shoulder, patting the baby’s back. Mohr testified that the tone and manner in which Stevens spoke about the incident concerned her.
“He was extremely matter of fact. There was a complete lack of emotion,” Mohr said Thursday.
Under questioning from Stevens’ attorney, Michael Dungan, Mohr said she could not determine if Kian’s death was caused by shaking. Neither parent told Mohr Kian had been shaken, and Anderson did not say that Stevens was angry at Kian.
Kian had rib fractures, a common injury seen in shaken-baby cases, but the fractures were in the process of healing and were 10 to 14 days old, Mohr said. Other than bruises on his jaw and red marks on his stomach, Kian had no visible injuries.
Dungan asked Mohr if Kian was a victim of shaken-baby syndrome.
“I can’t exclude the possibility that there was some sort of impact, but it could be purely from shaking,” she said.
No other witnesses testified during the preliminary examination Thursday. Assistant Prosecutor Jerry Jarzynka intends to call more witnesses, including Anderson, when the hearing continues on Dec. 16. At the conclusion of the preliminary exam, Klaeren will determine if there is enough probable cause to move the case to Circuit Court for trial.
Anderson lost custody of her surviving three children, none related to Stevens, on Aug. 23. That matter is on-going in Jackson County Circuit Judge Susan Beebe’s court.