published Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

Aunt faces grand jury in death of Chattanooga infant

  • photo
    Jessica Fax appears before Judge Johnny Houston on charges in the death of 3-month-old Mia Elizabeth Fry. Fax was caring for her niece Mia on Oct. 9 at the girl's Harrison home when the infant sustained five large skull fractures from blunt force trauma. The case has been sent to the grand jury.
    Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Jeremy Fry's voice halted and choked as he recalled touching the cold skin of his 3-month-old daughter, then rushing her to the living room of his Harrison home to perform CPR.

"Oh no, no, no," Fry cried as he carried the body of Mia Elizabeth Fry down the hallway, waking his wife, Marianne.

Fry testified Tuesday in court that when emergency workers arrived minutes later on Oct. 9, they told him there was "nothing they could do."

During the hearing in front of Hamilton County Judge Johnny Houston, the infant's aunt, Jessica Fax, sat quietly in an orange jail jumpsuit, her ankles and wrists shackled. She was taking care of Mia the night the little girl died and is now charged with criminal homicide in the infant's death.

After listening to testimony, Houston sent the charge against Fax to the grand jury, where jurors will decide whether to indict the 28-year-old woman from Harrison.

Throughout Tuesday's hourlong hearing, Fax slumped in her chair, looking at the floor. She spoke only twice, once with her court-appointed attorney, public defender Alan Dunn, and again to say "no" when the judge asked if she had any questions at the end of the hearing.

Houston oversaw the hearing for Sessions Court Judge Ronald Durby, who has left the bench temporarily for health reasons.

Mia was killed by blunt force trauma, according to a Hamilton County medical examiner's report, which found five large skull fractures on the infant.

Jeremy Fry testified that, after he came home from work about 7 a.m. on Oct. 9, he went to check on his daughter and noticed she wasn't moving. When he undid the swaddling blanket, the infant felt cold, he said.

Fax never told either of Mia's parents that anything had happened, the pair said. But later she told police that Mia fell off her lap while she was sitting on the couch. She said she then fed Mia and put her to bed.

The area where Fax claims to have dropped the little girl was padded and carpeted and could not have caused the injuries, according to the medical examiner.

Hamilton County Sheriff's Detective Rick Whaley testified that he saw large fractures that looked like a crushed eggshell on the baby's head and the infant's body had stiffened into rigor mortis, meaning she had been dead six to eight hours when emergency workers arrived about 10 a.m. on Oct. 9.

Fax is being held in Bradley County Jail on a $125,000 bond. She was moved to the facility because Mia's mother and father work at Silverdale Detention Facility, where female inmates typically are housed in Hamilton County.

Contact staff writer Todd South at 423-757-6347 or tsouth@timesfreepress.com.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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