Kemra Matthew sits at right with one of his two public defenders during his murder trial in Clayton County Superior Court. (Staff Photo: Kathy Jefcoats)
JONESBORO — A toddler found lifeless inside his home in July 2012 died from a hard blow to his head, a medical examiner testified Wednesday morning.
Clayton County jurors saw graphic autopsy photos of Jadien Harvey, 2, who died July 11, 2012. The photos showed 11 separate bruises on his head, and a 3-inch linear fracture that Dr. Keith Lehman said killed the child.
Under direct examination by Clayton County Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Kathryn Powers, Lehman said the only way the injuries could have been suffered accidentally was if he’d been in a car accident or fallen from a great height.
“Even a fall from a great height could cause some of the injuries but not all,” he said. “The injuries are consistent with being slammed into a flat hard surface like a wall.”
Kemra Nesta Matthew, 31, is charged with murder and other felonies in the child’s death. Matthew was living with the boy’s mother, Ashley Harvey, and is the father of two of her five children. Matthew denies any wrongdoing and told Clayton County police “I can’t think of nothing” to tell them about what could have happened to the toddler.
Matthew was baby-sitting the children while Harvey worked and told police he doesn’t know what happened to the boy. His story to police was that Jadien was unresponsive when Matthew tried to wake him from a nap.
Lehman said Jadien suffered bleeding into the brain tissue itself, mild bruising in the middle of his back, bruising of his left elbow and a “prominent amount of bleeding” of the soft tissue behind his abdomen.
The autopsy also showed bleeding in the optic nerve sheath in both eyes, Lehman testified.
Lehman said the extent of his injuries would have prevented the child from walking, talking, eating, standing or playing normally.
“He would have been immediately symptomatic right after the injuries were sustained,” said Lehman. “He would have been abnormally sleepy and confused. There could have also been vomiting.”
Matthew showed no outward emotion as the photos were displayed on a large screen in Chief Judge Deborah Benefield’s courtroom.
Jadien’s older brother, Ashton Capers, who was 4, suffered elevated liver and pancreatic enzymes, a serosal tear in his small intestines, a bruise on his lower back, a spinal compression fracture, a fracture of his left shin bone that showed no signs of healing and a condition that caused his skeletal muscle fibers to rapidly break down.
Capers told police “Kam” hit him in the stomach. He was rushed to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta the day his brother died and underwent emergency surgery.
Capers testified Tuesday. Powers walked the small-framed boy, now 6, to the witness stand. He held a green and orange ball and seemed overwhelmed by his surroundings and the dozens of strangers all looking at him. Capers glanced wide-eyed several times directly at Matthew but didn’t address him.
He nervously fumbled with both ears as Powers tried to make him comfortable enough to talk about what happened to him almost two years ago. After a series of innocuous questions, Powers asked, “Did Kam hit you in your stomach?”
“Yes,” he answered.
An audible gasp from jurors and spectators could be heard as the questioning ended.
Public defender Ashley Palmer didn’t cross-examine the child.
Ashton and his siblings are in their grandmother’s custody. Shannon Evans Harvey testified Tuesday that when she dropped them off for visits with their mother, Capers was hesitant to exit the car.
“He would hold on to his brother’s collar,” she said. “He’d ask his mother, ‘Is Kam in there?’ She would say no. Only then would he let go and allow his brothers inside.”
In addition to Capers, Jadien’s twin brother and Kemra Jr., Shannon Harvey has custody of the girl her daughter was pregnant with when Jadien died, she said. The girl celebrated her first birthday Thursday.
If convicted of murder, Matthew faces a mandatory minimum life in prison with the possibility of parole.