State plans to upgrade charges in 2-year-old death

News 12 at 11/ Tuesday, August 12, 2014

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- A mother is in jail, her 2-year-old is dead and now the state is saying it could be murder.

Tuesday, a Judge Jennings decided not to address bond for Katherine Smith after the state said they plan to upgrade her charge from child cruelty to murder. Smith said she put her son Mason in time out and he held his breath so long he passed out, fell thenhit his head. He died two days later in the hospital.

We got the story from a whole new perspective when Richmond County Homicide Investigator Walter Garrison took the stand as a witness for the state. He recounted what the boyfriend told police about what happened in the house that day.

Now, we're learning Smith's boyfriend, Jeremy Kitchens, was in the room with Mason when the toddler fell.

We already knew it took three hours before the unresponsive 2-year-old Mason Smith got medical attention, but in court Tuesday, Investigator Garrison told the boyfriend's side of the story about what happened during those hours.

"Have a seat next to your attorney," a court officer said as Smith entered the courtroom.

As mother Katherine Smith sits in chains, Investigator Walter Garrison says boyfriend Jeremy Kitchens admitted he was in the room with the toddler doing a crossword puzzle when he heard a thud.

"He would have been facing him if he was looking up," Garrison testified.

Garrison said Kitchens described the child as unresponsive, eyes rolled to the back of his head, and stiff as a board. He says Smith slapped the child to revive him, lay him on the bed, and then left to check on dinner and take her other child to a friend's home. He says while Smith was gone, Mason began to vomit.

After changing the sheets, he says he left the room and told Katherine to deal with it. He says it was still another hour before they called for medical care.

"She placed him on the bed and at some point even monitored his oxygen level, right?" Smith's attorney asked the investigator.

Smith's attorney says as a licensed practical nurse, she was monitoring Mason's oxygen levels and didn't call for help until they got too low. But, while the mother claims the toddler fell, the state says the injuries don't match up.

"His injuries were not consistent with the story that was given by his mother Mary Katherine Smith," Garrison said.

After two days at the hospital, Mason died. The initial autopsy report says the manner of death is "homicide by head trauma inflicted by others."

"Were those charges sadly upgraded?" the judge asked.

They haven't been yet, but the state plans to upgrade her charge to murder within the week.

Investigator Garrison also testified that Katherine Smith admitted she would have failed a drug test requested by DFACS for methamphetamine the day of the fall. Right now we don't know if that influenced her decision to wait to call 911.

News 12 spoke with the grandparents as they left the courtroom. They said they think evidence will show Smith is guilty and they want justice for their 2-year-old grandson.

To read the full court notes, see the attached link.


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