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Infant murder case set for trial

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

A 27-year-old Louisiana man is scheduled to stand trail in the brutal beating death of a baby, after a long and convoluted path to prosecution.

Philanders Lamont Bowie is charged with murder and child abuse, in connection with the death of Makayla Denise Valley, the 19-month-old daughter of Bowie's girlfriend. The girl died of a ruptured liver in 2005.

She was allegedly "chronically abused," and when she died, wearing just a bloody diaper and a broken, yellow earring, her body was reportedly covered with old and new bruises.

The Clayton County District Attorney's Office has indicted Bowie on the charges three different times, once getting the indictment thrown out by a judge, and once dismissing the case themselves, calling Bowie the "least likely suspect," and letting him go, court records show.

The week after Thanksgiving, a jury will get to look at the case, and decide whether Bowie is guilty of an ugly murder, or whether prosecutors have pursued him pointlessly.

The case is expected to hinge on the infant's autopsy report, which either shows that the fatal blow was delivered 30 minutes before death, when Bowie was the only adult around, or that it was delivered days earlier, when Bowie wasn't baby-sitting.

Prosecutors originally understood the autopsy report to conclusively connect Bowie to the baby's death. The man had been baby-sitting for five hours when Valley died.

Later, though, they dismissed the case based on the autopsy report. According to court records, the autopsy showed the time of death decisively cleared Bowie, pointing, instead to others.

According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the medical examiner never said that, and the attorneys misinterpreted the autopsy. Bowie's defense attorneys disagree, saying the autopsy was explained very clearly, but that there was some dispute among medical examiners and prosecuting attorneys, when the dismissed case began to attract public attention.

Steve Frey, representing Bowie at the trial, is expected to call medical examiners and assistant district attorneys to testify for the defense, an unusual move. He is expected to argue that the case should have been dismissed, but became political.

The prosecutors, on the other hand, will defend the "immediate death" interpretation of the autopsy, and are expected to rely heavily on Bowie's alleged confession.

In a video-recorded interview with police, Bowie is seen curled up in the corner of the room crying and saying he's sorry. According to detectives, the man admitted to slamming Valley into a wall, causing the child's death.

Frey said Bowie's statements aren't actually connected to the girl's death. Bowie confessed to "tossing" the girl into a chair, according to the attorney, not punching the baby in the stomach.

"Nothing has changed since they dismissed the case," Frey said. "Once you strip away that irrelevant story, they don't have an idea about what happened."