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Doctor confirms previous head injury in murder case

WORTHINGTON -- Susan Duffek, a pediatric radiologist for the x-ray center in Sioux Falls, S.D., said Monday, during testimony at the murder trial of Lisa Shane, she was certain there was evidence of brain injury older than that which occurred on Oct. 28, 2004.

Shane, charged with the second-degree murder of her three-month-old daughter, Ashanta Chavarria, brought the baby to the emergency room on Oct. 28. The child was later transferred by air to Sioux Valley Hospital in Sioux Falls, where she stayed in the intensive care unit until life support was terminated on Nov. 5, 2004.

Shane was arrested for the child's murder in August 2005.

Duffek, one of many doctors and experts who have testified so far, was responsible for reading the CT and MRI scans of the Ashanta's head, brain and thoracic region. She believes the healing rib fractures found on the baby were two to four weeks old, and that the older blood found between the brain and the skull of the child was two or more weeks older than the acute blood from more recent injuries.

"How certain are you about the older blood found on the brain?" asked Assistant Attorney General William Klumpp.

"I'm certain, based on the CT scan," Duffek replied.

During cross-examination, Chief Public Defender James Fleming brought up another doctor's comments from Friday's testimony.

"When Dr. Crosby testified on Friday, he could not say with any degree of medical certainty that a previous brain injury did exist, did you know that?" Fleming asked.

"I did not," Duffek replied.

Klumpp asked Duffek if she had reviewed Shane's description of what had happened to cause the injuries to the baby -- that she and the baby's father had argued, he had shoved her back and she had dropped the baby, who struck her head on a metal futon frame.

"After reviewing Lisa's description, what can you tell us, based on your experience?" Klumpp asked.

"The description does not fit with the amount of force necessary to produce those kinds of injuries," Duffek said.

Ashanta's pediatrician, Candice Nelson, said she had expected the baby to outgrow the physical problems she had due to a premature birth, unlike her older brother Avanta, who she believed would always be a demanding child to care for.

At Ashanta's first check-up after leaving the hospital, Nelson wrote in her case notes, "Mom reports baby is doing extremely well since going home ... a happy and content baby."

Nelson said Shane told her the baby's father was incarcerated because of alcohol-related issues. Nelson said she warned Shane that the father, Jose "Lupe" Chavarria, should not be allowed around the children if he was drinking.

Shane initially told law enforcement she had not seen Chavarria on Oct. 28, the day Ashanta was injured and also the day Chavarria was released from Nobles County Jail. She later said he came to her home shortly after the home health nurse left around 11 a.m., and an argument ensued, resulting in him shoving her and the baby being dropped.

Judi Honermann, the mail carrier in that section of Adrian, testified there was no car in the driveway, and that she saw no one coming or going from the house around 11:30 a.m.

Head Start teacher Linda Hemmert testified Shane's 4-year-old child was in school that day, but couldn't account for an exact time since attendance is taken at lunch instead of upon arrival. Hemmert said the child was in school by 12:45 p.m. at the latest.

Adrian Police Chief Shawn Langseth was one of the officers that executed a search warrant on the Shane residence on Oct. 29. He walked the jury through several photos taken at the home, where not a single thing was out of place -- the beds neatly made, the closets tidy, infant clothing folded and lined up with military precision and clothes hung neatly.

"Everything was very orderly and neat," Langseth said.

The last person to testify Monday was Rosa "Linda" Chavarria, the sister of Jose Chavarria. Linda said she met Shane when she was 12 years old and that they were best friends. In October 2004, she knew her brother was in jail but did not know he was scheduled to be released Oct. 28.

Shane left a message on Linda's voice mail at 10:48 a.m. Oct. 29 stating Ashanta was in the hospital and may not live. In the message, Shane said, "I don't know if ... been able to know if Lupe got out of jail yesterday or not."

Linda said when she asked Shane what had happened she was told Ashanta had a reaction to an RSV shot. Shane asked Linda at the hospital if she had spoken to her brother, which Linda had not.

When asked during cross-examination if Shane wanted Lupe to come to the hospital, Linda said, "She knew he couldn't, so, no."

The trial is scheduled to continue all week. Jose Chavarria is expected to testify today.