NORMAN, Okla. — Defense attorneys in a child abuse murder trial tried Thursday to discredit the mother of a 20-month-old victim who was stomped to death.
Lead defense attorney Cindy Viol repeatedly asked prosecution witness Cydney Cox, the mother of the slain child, about testimony she provided in a 2017 preliminary hearing compared to her statements in the ongoing Cleveland County trial. Viol also attempted to show Cox was either lying to police in 2017 or to the jury about statements and incidents connected to the child's death.
District Judge Jeff Virgin is presiding over the trial which resumes this morning at 9 a.m. with more prosecution witnesses scheduled to testify. The trial should last until next late next week.
Jake Holman, 28, of Noble, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of 20-month-old Maddox Abner. Prosecutors allege Holman, who was Cox's boyfriend at the time, caused massive internal injuries to the toddler by stomping on him. If convicted, he faces punishments of life in prison or life in prison with parole.
On Thursday, Cox received the brunt of Viol's aggressive questioning which was an attempt to discredit her earlier trial testimony that the defendant was the last person to care for her son before he died either late on Feb. 3, 2017, or early Feb. 4, 2017.
Cox testified Wednesday she left her son alone with Holman late Feb. 3 so she could purchase marijuana for the couple. She also told jurors she noticed Holman got out of bed twice during the early morning hours of Feb. 4, including one instance when she saw Holman's hand on the doorknob of the toddler's room.
During Thursday's cross-examination by Viol, Cox replied to questions that she did not recall specific comments she reportedly made to Norman police investigators during two separate interviews on Feb. 4 and Feb. 6. Cox answered many questions from Viol by saying she did not remember details or timelines associated with the days before or after the boy's death.
At one point, Viol read from the 2017 preliminary hearing transcript to show jurors Cox's testimony at that time and during this trial is inconsistent.
"Does your version of the truth change over time?" Viol asked Cox.
"No," the witness replied.
Viol then asked Cox if she "shaded" the truth to gain an advantage.
"No," Cox said.
During Thursday morning testimony, Viol asked Cox if she thought Holman was a "great guy" because he played with her son on occasions.
"No," Cox said, without hesitation.
Cox told jurors she did not remember that Holman played with her son as much as Viol was trying to portray.
The mother of the slain child reiterated earlier testimony that she moved out of Holman's apartment after the child suffered a broken arm in December 2016. Shea Spears, a child protective services worker for the Department of Human Services, confirmed he responded to a referral about the boy's broken arm.
Spears testified he recommended Cox leave the apartment with her son and not have any further contact with Holman until the case was resolved. Spears told jurors he did not believe Holman's story that Maddox injured himself by falling off the living room couch. Holman was the toddler's caretaker when he suffered the broken arm.
Holman originally said he was in the living room when Maddox fell, but changed his story later by acknowledging he was in another room playing on his cell phone, Spears testified.
The boy's arm was snapped above the elbow, which caused Spears some concern about the child's safety. Spears testified he has never worked a case where a broken bone of that type was caused from such a short fall.
"I was concerned this injury was caused by more than a fall," Spears testified.
Cox's mother, Michelle Cox, testified she admonished her daughter to never leave the toddler with Holman again after Maddox suffered the broken arm. Michelle Cox told jurors she last saw her grandson alive on Feb. 2, 2017 when he and his mother had dinner with her.
Michelle Cox also testified Holman called her early on Feb. 4, 2017 to tell her the child had died. After rushing to Holman's apartment, Michelle Cox testified she was hysterical and yelled "I'm going to get you" at Holman as he was being led to a Norman police car in handcuffs.
When asked by prosecutors why she made that comment, Michelle Cox replied, "Because if something were happening to Maddox, he'd have done it."
Farley is news editor for The Norman Transcript, a CNHI News Service publication.