MARIETTA, Ga. (AP) — A county firefighter testified Wednesday in the case of a couple accused of beating to death their 8-year-old child that the boy was “covered” in what appeared to be bruises across his lower body.
DeJames said after he responded to the call at the Smith residence, Joseph Smith led him into the house where he found Josef on the floor and not breathing.
“While first arriving on the scene, I noticed a slight mark _ it looked like an older mark on his right arm,” DeJames said. “Once in the hospital, I saw multiple marks on the child. I recall them to be lots of bruising, possibly some burn marks, that started from his lower back down to his ankles, and they were covered.”
But DeJames admitted after questioning by defense attorney Manubir Singh Arora that he did not know for certain that the marks were bruises.
A second firefighter, Andrew Rustin, also said he saw bruising and even what appeared to be burn marks on the boys body.
“Ive got an 8-year-old and he plays and falls, but he doesnt have the bruising that we saw,” Rustin said of Josef.
In opening arguments Tuesday, Assistant District Attorney Eleanor Dixon told jurors the boy was beaten by his parents, locked inside a wooden box and forced to stay in a closet for hours at a time before he finally died.
“Josef’s body will tell you the story of what happened to him,” Assistant District Attorney Eleanor Dixon said. “There was beating after beating after beating, and then he died.”
Arora cautioned the jurors that they would see photographs depicting horrible injuries, but said those injuries “did not cause Josef’s death.” Arora said he would show that the medical examiner did not perform tests that would have cleared his clients.
On Oct. 8, 2003, police and emergency medical personnel went to a home in Mableton, 12 miles northwest of Atlanta, after a report of an unresponsive Josef, who later died at a children’s hospital.
The parents were charged in a 14-count indictment in June with murder, cruelty to children, aggravated assault and false imprisonment.
The Smiths are members of the Franklin, Tenn.-based Remnant Fellowship Church, which grew out of church leader Gwen Shamblin’s Weigh Down Workshop, a Christian diet program she created in 1986. Authorities raided the church in June 2004 as part of the investigation of Josef Smith’s death.
Former Remnant members have suggested to investigators and reporters that church teachings on discipline include corporal punishment.
Shamblin previously said the church leaves discipline to parents but believes in spankings as a last resort. She also said critics fooled former Remnant members into believing they were part of a cult.