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Shawntrell Dawkins' murder trial under way

Published On: Jan 14 2013 07:40:18 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 14 2014 09:34:37 PM CST


The murder trial of Shawntrell Dawkins, 33, began Monday.

Dawkins is accused of murdering her goddaughter in April 2008. Milayna Harris, the victim, was 2 years old.

Jurors listened to testimony from a variety of witnesses throughout an eight-hour-long opening day. Among the witnesses: police and fire personnel and a next door neighbor.

The most stirring moment came when multiple pictures of young Milayna were shown on an overhead projector. In one picture, Milayna could be seen with visible injuries on her forehead and stomach as hospital tubes were taped to her frail body. Other pictures showed bruises on her arms and legs.

One neighbor testified about calling 9-1-1 in February after months of hearing crying and screaming by children. She said the noise was consistent with the sound of a child being beaten. An officer who arrived that day said he didn't see anything out of the ordinary.

Two months later, though, Milayna died. Now Nakia Dawkins sits in a jail cell after being convicted of injuring a child. According to ABC-7 archives, he has yet to be sentenced due to a previous jury's inability to decide on a sentence.

On this day it was Shawntrell facing a jury of her peers, but her husband may have played a large role.

Video of his interrogation was shown to jurors for more than 30 minutes to close Monday's presentation of evidence. In it, he describes their frustration over caring for a child. He told police that he and his wife were caring for two children because their friends were getting a divorce.

According to the interview, when the mother of Milayna gained custody, she was deployed to Germany and asked them to take care of her children until she was settled in. Nakia told police in that tape, "The problem is she never f***ing tells us anything."

He grew frustrated again when talking about Milayna's need for attention, describing how she would act up or even scratch her face if she wasn't getting enough. That led him to describe how he would use a belt to beat the child for defecating on herself despite the fact that she was potty-trained.

Throughout the tape, police pushed Nakia to tell them who killed Milayna, but he never answered. After initially referring to himself as the "heavy-handed one" who disciplined the children, he later said it was more like 50 50 implying Shawntrell also hit Milayna.

As for the night of Milayna's death, police were told by Nakia Dawkins that he awoke to a loud boom, the child being told to go to timeout and eventually Shawntrell saying, "Milayna, Milayna, Milayna ... baby she's not breathing, baby she's not moving!"

Later, he described his wife as being next to him in bed and suggested that Milayna may have fallen down the stairs.

It appears that Tuesday's court session will open with the state playing another interrogation video from 2008, from when Shawntrell talked to police. That item was also entered into evidence on Monday, but time ran out. The defense has objected to both tapes being used in the trial because they contend the Dawkinses were coerced into giving those statements.

The tapes were allowed into evidence, but sections of the tape are muted. An attorney said in court those parts of the tapes were redacted; it wasn't explained why.

Attorneys for the defense have yet to begin their case, but the evidence they've entered may show part of their defense plan.

Stuart Leeds entered items into evidence on Monday tied to El Paso County's then-Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Juan Contin. Those items included opinions of his records by a medical board, and his previous firing from the medical examiner position.

During the trial of Nakia Dawkins, Theresa Caballero made it a point to question Contin's work, specifically his use of the word bludgeon on the autopsy report of Milayna.

Whether Contin's record could become part of the trial won't be known until the defense begins to put on its case. Stuart Leeds told ABC-7 he couldn't comment on the case because of a gag order that was placed on him during a previous trial.

Shawntrell Dawkins is expected in court Tuesday morning. The trial will resume at 9 a.m.

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