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Mother sobs, testifies about baby's death

By Kathy Jefcoats

kjefcoats@news-daily.com

JONESBORO — Toni Brown clutched a tissue in her left hand as she tearfully recalled how her baby son died in her arms after spending three days on life support.

"It took three days for me to decide to let him go," said Brown. "They told me part of his brain stem was gone, he was blind from shaken baby syndrome, he would require a breathing machine, a feeding tube. When we saw movement, we got excited and thought he would come out of it. But he would never wake up. He would never wake up."

Mikkah Brown was 13 months old. Doctors said he suffered severe brain damage from multiple fractures and being shaken. The baby sustained numerous other injuries, said doctors.

Prosecutors said the injuries were inflicted by his father, Ryan Edwards, 35. Edwards is on trial this week in Clayton County Superior Court for murder and other felonies in the baby's death.

Toni Brown was the state's first witness when the trial started Tuesday morning. Under direct testimony by Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson, she vacillated between smiles at the memory of her lively baby and tears when remembering his last hours.

Edwards sat at the defense table, smirking and making faces at her testimony. At one point, Edwards laughed as he spoke to his public defender.

Brown was a single mother of two and Edwards a married father of five when she discovered she was pregnant in March 2010, she testified. Edwards was not present when Mikkah Brown was born and only saw him four or five times before he died, she said.

When she lost her regular baby-sitter, Brown asked Edwards to help her out with child care. She was working two jobs and taking paralegal classes at Clayton State University, she testified.

Edwards agreed and was staying at the Brown home near Morrow, she said.

When Brown returned home in between jobs in January 2012, her older son, Malakai Brown, then 12, told her he'd seen Edwards swinging the baby around by his neck "like a rag doll." She went to check on him, she said.

"His eyes were open," she testified. "I snapped my fingers at him. He didn't blink. Usually when he woke up and saw me, he'd smile, jump up and down in the bed and hold his arms out to me. He didn't do any of that."

The next few moments included a hurried drive to the emergency room tempered by Brown's unwillingness to set off Edwards' temper, she said.

"He kept telling me Mikkah was fine, we didn't need to go to the hospital," said Brown. "I couldn't let him know I knew he'd done something. I was letting him know that I thought what happened was just an accident. I didn't know what he was capable of."

While doctors and nurses attempted CPR on Mikkah Brown, his mother collapsed on the floor.

"When I saw them doing chest compressions, I just fell to the floor," she testified. "Mr. Edwards helped me up and kept telling me to be calm. How can anyone be calm?"

A nurse told her the baby would have to be flown to Atlanta for treatment because he'd gone into respiratory arrest. Brown said she questioned her older son once more about what he saw.

"I asked him once more if he was sure he saw what he said he saw and he said yes," she testified. "We told the nurse and they called police."

Edwards and the boy were taken separately to the Clayton County Police Department for interviews. Edwards was arrested and charged. He's been in the Clayton County Jail since that time.