published Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Doctor testifies boy showed signs of medical abuse in first-degree murder case

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    Monica Hammers, 41, faces a charge of attempted first degree murder after she allegedly tried to suffocate her 4-year-old son while he was at Erlanger hospital, according to Chattanooga Police Department.

Using records and a doctor's testimony, the prosecutor in the trial of a woman charged with attempting to smother her 4-year-old son tried Wednesday to show that the child's health improved after the mother no longer had contact with him.

Monica Dawn Hammers, 43, is on trial on charges of attempted first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse. She is accused of trying to smother her son with a pillow while they were at Erlanger hospital for his digestive problems on May 5, 2011.

Prosecutor Charlie Minor had Erlanger Dr. Annamaria Church read through nurse and doctor notes made during the hospital stay and recording both the child's condition and Hammers' behavior.

"What I saw was repeated history of multiple concerns about this child, and when you examined him and kept him in a hospital, there was nothing wrong," Church testified. "So that for me is strongly suspicious of medical child abuse."

The testimony supported Minor's promise in opening statements Tuesday that he would show the child's condition before the alleged smothering and his recovery afterward.

On cross-examination, Hammers' attorney, Harry Christensen, tried to minimize the child's digestive problems, attributing some of it to lactose intolerance. But Church didn't budge in her estimation that there was evidence of medical child abuse.

During the first day of the trial Tuesday, prosecution witness Omega Harkness testified that she had seen Hammers shake her son twice earlier in the day before becoming frustrated when the child whined after waking from a nap, then holding a pillow over his face for a few seconds.

In testimony, however, Harkness would not say Hammers was trying to kill the boy.

The trial is scheduled to resume today in Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman's courtroom.

Hammers remains free on bond during the trial.

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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