SYCAMORE – As they gave closing arguments Wednesday during the trial of a DeKalb woman charged with trying to smother her baby, attorneys debated the credibility of those who testified.
Kristen Shaw, 27, of the 1300 block of North Annie Glidden Road in DeKalb, is charged with attempted murder, a Class X felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison, and aggravated domestic battery, a Class 2 felony punishable by up to seven years in prison.
She pleaded not guilty to the charges in October.
When the bench trial began Monday, the baby’s father, John Compton, testified about what occurred after the two argued the night of June 14 into the morning hours of June 15, 2011.
When their 4-month-old baby, Dmitri, began to cry in his room around 1:30 a.m., Shaw went to him; the crying stopped after a minute or so, Compton said. As he entered the room, Compton said he saw Shaw holding a yellow throw pillow over Dmitri’s face, covering his nose and mouth.
Compton testified he heard a muffled sound – “something like gurgling” – coming from the baby. He said he removed Shaw’s arm and put the pillow aside.
She then put a second, smaller pillow over Dmitri’s face, and Compton said he immediately removed that one. When Compton asked Shaw what she was doing, he testified she said it was none of his business, claimed he had no legal rights to Dmitri and wasn’t his father anyway.
Shaw testified Tuesday that Compton fabricated the attempted smothering story.
She said Compton often called her derogatory names, pulled her hair and choked her during their relationship.
She also said he constantly questioned whether he was the baby’s father, even after a DNA test confirmed his paternity.
When Detective Sgt. Brad Carls with the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office asked Shaw during an interview conducted June 15 why she placed the pillow over the baby’s face, she said she didn’t know. When he asked how long she did so, she said, “A second or two.”
Shaw testified she answered Carls that way because he wouldn’t stop asking questions, and she believed Compton – who was at the sheriff’s office with Dmitri while she was being interviewed – was watching her talk with Carls.
Prosecutor Phil Montgomery with the DeKalb County State’s Attorney’s Office called Shaw a liar and told Presiding Judge Robbin Stuckert that Shaw wanted her to believe the good parts of her testimony and disregard the statements that are unfavorable to her.
“How convenient,” he said. “... She can’t have it both ways, judge.”
Public Defender Regina Harris, one of Shaw’s attorneys, argued Compton’s abuse of Shaw led to the charges and his having separated her from her child, the only good thing in her life.
Harris questioned the time frame Compton provided of the night’s events, and she brought up that Compton noted his unfortunate use of the word “smother” when he spoke with police.
“It’s unfortunate, all right. It’s unfortunate because it didn’t happen,” she said.
Harris said the state had not met its burden of proof. With the attempted murder charge, Shaw had to have intent to kill Dmitri, not just place the pillow over his face, she said.
And Harris challenged whether Dmitri would have been strangled, related to the aggravated domestic battery charge, because he showed no distress and there’s no proof that his breathing was impeded. Most importantly, she said, Compton said Dmitri was smiling after the first pillow was removed.
Prosecutor Stephanie Klein said Compton responded to questions accurately and with attention to detail. If he had fabricated the story, Klein argued, wouldn’t he have taken greater liberties with it?
“This is not how people lie,” she said of Compton’s testimony, adding that there’s no evidence he told different stories.
Klein said Shaw intended to kill her son because she immediately used a second pillow after Compton took away the first. And impeding normal breathing is done by blocking the nose or mouth, and Shaw did both in putting the pillow over her son’s face.
Stuckert said she will deliver her verdict at 1:30 p.m. Friday.