MAYVILLE – Details of Nayla Hodnett’s autopsy were revealed before Chautauqua County First Assistant District Attorney Michael Flaherty rested his case Friday afternoon in Chautauqua County Court, nearly 30 hours after arguments began.
Public Defender Ned Barone, who is representing Tyler Perez, asked for a directed verdict and, subsequently a dismissal, from Judge M. William Boller on the charges of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter following the completion of Flaherty’s case. Barone, specifically, said the charges should be dropped because Flaherty failed to prove the allegations against Perez in the April 2014 murder of 16-month-old Nayla Hodnett in the City of Jamestown.
Judge Boller denied the request and, upon the jury’s return to court, informed them proceedings would resume Monday at noontime in Chautauqua County Court. At that point, Barone is expected to begin his case. There’s no word, as of Friday afternoon, whether or not Perez will take the stand as part of his defense.
Under the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, a defendant has a right to protect themselves from self-incrimination.
Flaherty’s first witness Friday morning was Dr. Tara Mahar, the Chief Medical Examiner for Erie County, NY. Mahar testified that she performed the autopsy on Nayla Hodnett on April 17, 2014, just hours after her passing at Buffalo and Children’s Hospital. Hodnett weighed 20 pounds, with a body length of 30 inches.
Hodnett was wearing a disposable diaper, and had a number of medical intervention items on her, including multiple IVs and a catheter, according to Mahar. Mahar additionally noted that the infant had “a number of external injuries,” that she said were the result of blunt force trauma.
Upon cross-examination from Barone, however, Mahar said that she couldn’t determine the specific object. Mahar testified during Flaherty’s direct-examination that the object wasn’t sharp, which she said leads to the blunt force trauma classification.
Mahar testified that Nayla Hodnett sustained anywhere from 6-12 injuries that didn’t result from medical attention received at Buffalo Women and Children’s Hospital. The medical examiner additionally stated that the injuries were sustained “fairly” recent, time wise, in relation to Hodnett’s death.
Mahar also said that she believes Hodnett would have cried as a result of the injuries that she sustained. In addition, Mahar testified that she expected her condition to deteriorate to the point she’d lose responsiveness and the desire to eat.
Perez, on occasion, appeared to be tearful as Flaherty’s cross-examination of Mahar neared the end.
Melissa O’Connor was the final witness called by the prosecution. O’Connor, a CPS Supervisor, testified that Perez told CPS during an interview on May 1, 2014 that he’d “have to go to the Bible and ask God (who was responsible) because Angel (Hodnett) did not do it.” O’Connor said that CPS conducted an investigation of their own after learning of Nayla Hodnett’s death, an investigation that she said was “parallel” of law enforcement’s during a special impromptu hearing that was conducted Friday morning without the jury present.
Barone, during his cross-examination of O’Connor, repeatedly asked her to allow him to finish asking his questions, which were focused specifically on statements that Perez allegedly made to CPS during the interview. In addition, Barone asked her numerous times to answer the question that he asked, and to answer, “Yes” or “No,” when asked a question that only required “Yes, No” answers.
WNYNewsNow will continue to cover the case as it continues.