Witnesses testify Maryville man Michael Cody sleepwalked into crib before infant death
By J.J. Kindred | (email@example.com)
Witnesses testified Tuesday against a Maryville man charged in the death of an infant girl in July 2010, telling jurors that he wound up lying inside the crib along with the baby due to an apparent sleepwalking disorder.
Michael Ryan Cody, 22, Howard School Road, is charged with criminally negligent homicide in the death of 10-week-old Braylee Luttrell on July 17, 2010.
During the first day of Cody’s trial in Blount County Circuit Court, Latricia (Tricia) Luttrell, the baby’s mother, testified that her friend Kenna Robinson, who was dating Cody at the time, was coming over to her home on Pea Ridge Road in Maryville, where she lived with her parents and her child, to hang out. Cody later showed up unexpectedly, driving his own vehicle.
Cody, along with Luttrell, Robinson and Luttrell’s father, Todd, ate dinner together, drank beer and smoked marijuana, however, Todd Luttrell did not partake in the marijuana smoking, witnesses said. Cody and Robinson planned to spend the night,
Latricia Luttrell testified that during the middle of the night, she went to the baby’s bedroom and checked on her, and everything was fine. However, it was after 9 a.m. and it was unusual for the baby to still be asleep. Luttrell went back to the baby’s bedroom, and that is where her worst nightmare came true.
“She was moved to the side of the crib on her back, and she was cold,” Luttrell said, fighting back tears. “I screamed, and my parents came in. My mom picked her up and took her into the living room. I had taken a CPR infant class and I tried it, but it didn’t work. My dad called 911 and we sat until they got there.”
Luttrell said Cody and Robinson were nowhere to be seen during the chaos, and it was only when she sent them a text message telling them that her child was dead that they returned to the home.
Luttrell told Blount County Assistant District Attorney Shari Tayloe when asked that neither Cody or Robinson explained why they left, and never told her what happened.
“He only told his parents that he was sorry, but he never told what he did,” Luttrell said. “Law enforcement tried to tell me it was SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), but I know that it wasn’t.”
While being cross-examined by Cody’s attorney, George Waters, Luttrell said she had known Cody for five years, and he and Robinson had spent the night at her home numerous times.
“He seemed normal, and was talking normal, and everything was fine,” Luttrell said, when asked if Cody was in the right frame of mind after their drinking and pot-smoking exchange.
Todd Luttrell briefly testified after his daughter and reiterated that he knew Cody and Robinson as being friends with his daughter, and confirmed the events leading to the baby’s death. He said that he didn’t see Cody or Robinson when they discovered baby unresponsive.
“I didn’t see them until they showed back up,” Todd Luttrell said. “I didn’t hear him tell anything else that happened.”
Robinson testified that she and Cody were asleep on the couch together in the living room, when she woke up early that morning and realized that Cody wasn’t there with her.
“I called his phone and let it ring, and I followed it into the baby’s bedroom,” Robinson said. “I turned to see him in the crib. “I found Braylee and she was stiff. I laid her back down and woke Michael up. He was lying on his back with his feet laying on the end. Braylee was underneath where his legs were arched. He didn’t get out of the crib immediately.
“I remember running outside and throwing up,” Robinson continued. “I didn’t wake up Tricia’s parents. We left but we went back to the house and he planned to tell her what happened, but he didn’t. I was terrified and I was in shock. I really didn’t know what to do. We went to Michael’s parents, then he went to the police afterwards.”
During cross-examination, Robinson said that she never witnessed Cody sleepwalking, but he talked in his sleep and he would not realize anything he said or did at times.
“Michael’s body was not on Braylee. His legs were above Braylee’s body,” Robinson said. “He said, ‘Why am I in this crib? What am I doing?’ He was kind of frantic.”
Blount County Sheriff’s Office Detective David Henderson testified that he and deputies responded to the residence. He saw the baby’s body and her face was blue, and a comforter she was laying on had a stain on it as he investigated inside the baby’s bedroom. He said the child appeared to have no signs of suffocation.
“Tricia was distraught like any mother would be,” Henderson said. “There were others there trying to comfort her (including Cody) and be with her. I don’t recall him acting different.”
Henderson said he made contact with Cody at approximately 10:40 p.m. that evening, and he came to the Blount County Justice Center on his own free will to give his version of what happened that morning.
Tayloe showed a video interview to the jury that Henderson conducted with Cody. He told the same story that Tricia Luttrell, Todd Luttrell and Robinson testified to as far as the order of events leading to the baby’s death.
“I didn’t know what to do,” Cody said in the video. “I went outside and we were just panicking, and so we went back to our cars and left. I received the text that Braylee was dead, and I went back to (Tricia’s) house.
“Tricia’s been a friend for about six or seven years. She was dating a good friend of mine,” Cody continued. “I was there when the baby was born. I didn’t know how to react or think. I’ve slept walked and slept talked. I’ve done all kinds of different things in my sleep, but never anything like this.”
When asked by Henderson why he didn’t try to respond immediately, Cody said, “Put yourself in my shoes. You get woken up by your girlfriend at 7 a.m. on a Saturday, and she’s telling you that your friend’s 2-month-old child (may be dead). I didn’t know what to do.”
“I would think a person would jump through a ceiling, and it would wake me up in a heartbeat,” Henderson responded.
The trial continues at 10 a.m. today, with cross-examination by Waters and more witness testimony.