published Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

Witness declines to guess whether Hammers tried to kill son

  • photo
    Monica Hammers, 43, faces a charge of attempted aggravated assault after she allegedly tried to suffocate her 4-year-old son while he was at Erlanger hospital.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

A woman who told police she saw the mother of a 4-year-old boy try to smother her son in Erlanger hospital testified Tuesday that the incident shocked and frightened her, but she wouldn't say the mother was trying to kill the boy.

Monica Dawn Hammers, 43, is on trial on charges of attempted first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse on allegations she tried to smother her son with a pillow.

In the first day of the trial, Omega Harkness recounted observing the boy and Hammers for most of the day on May 5, 2011. Harkness was an assigned observer while the boy was being treated for a possible digestive disorder.

A previous police report that the boy was being treated for a broken arm was incorrect.

Harkness testified that, twice before the alleged smothering, Hammers had shaken her son angrily and seemed frustrated with the child. But when Hammers' attorney, Harry Christensen, asked her if she thought the mother was trying to kill the boy, she said she couldn't know what was going on in Hammers' mind.

Reports varied as to how long Hammers held the pillow over the boy's face. A doctor's report said one to two seconds, while a police report said four to five and a police investigator earlier testified that it was five to six seconds.

Harkness told Christensen that she couldn't be certain how many seconds Hammers held the pillow.

Christensen picked at the testimony of Chattanooga police Officer Galen Fugh, the lead investigator who arrested Hammers after talking with Harkness.

Fugh said Hammers would not talk to him and asked for a lawyer. He then arrested her on probable cause.

Growing agitated at times with Christensen's tone and insinuations, Fugh admitted that, if Hammers had given her side of the story or a likely excuse, he wouldn't have charged her with attempted murder.

The trial is scheduled to resume today before Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman.

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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