Judge grants bond to the mother charged with the murder of her son

Katherine Smith (WRDW-TV)
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UPDATE: Thursday, Aug. 15, 2014

HEPHZIBAH, Ga. (WRDW) -- A Richmond County judge granted bond for Mary Katherine Smith who is facing murder charges for the death of her son.

The prosecutor asked for Smith's bond to be denied saying "I think it would be a bad idea to have her around patients. Especially child patients."

When the judge said he needed a good reason to deny bond, the prosecutor claimed Smith could intimidate witnesses.

The judge set the bond at $40,000 and said Smith isn't allowed to have contact with any child under the age of 12.

Smith was originally charged with second degree cruelty to children.

ORIGINAL STORY: Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014

HEPHZIBAH, Ga. (WRDW) -- A mother accused of child cruelty faced a judge in her first appearance Tuesday afternoon revealing another person in the incident and possible drug use.

Mary Katherine Smith is facing one count of cruelty to children in the second degree after her 2-year-old son Mason Smith died on Aug. 2.

Smith was originally accused of putting Mason in his room for discipline on July 30. On Tuesday, Investigator Walter Garrison took the stand revealing new details from that night. Smith's boyfriend, Jeremy Kitchens, and another child were in the home when the incident happened, the investigator said.

Kitchens told the investigator they were all in a bedroom when Mason said no to a request by his mother, the investigator said. Smith put him in the corner for timeout and she left the room to check on dinner.

Kitchens and Smith heard a thud while she was checking dinner. Kitchens was in the same room as Mason playing on his iPad when the child fell, the investigator said. Mason fell on a display case after Kitchens said he believed the boy held his breath and passed out.

Mason's eyes rolled in the back of his head, was unresponsive and stiff as a board, Kitchens told the investigator. Smith, a licensed practical nurse, came back into the room slapped the child to revive him while Kitchen shook the 2-year-old. Kitchens said he left the room because he was upset.

It took Smith and Kitchens three hours before contacting medical assistance, an investigator said. During that time, investigators said Smith brought up food, took another child to someone else's house, Kitchens removed the vomit-stained sheets underneath Mason and Smith used a pulse oximeter to check Mason. The investigator said Mason's oxygen levels dipped to 75 percent, which is low.

The boy had hemorrhaging behind his eyes, almost no brain activity, bleeding in his brain and healing rib fractures, a warrant said. In court, medical staff at GRU said it is possible when you shake a child, that a 2-year-old could be shaken enough to cause hemorrhaging of the brain. The investigator said, in his opinion, that three hours is a long time to wait to call for help if the couple knew about the boy's condition. The investigator said the child's injuries were not consistent with Smith's story.

Smith's attorney said Smith checked his oxygen levels right after the fall and they were fine.

Kitchens was with Mason while Smith took her other child to another person's house, Smith's attorney said. Mason started moving his head side to side and vomited while Smith was away.

While being cross examined, the investigator said he has not reviewed the 911 recording, has no evidence the previous injuries were caused by Smith and that the baseball-size injury to the back of Mason's head wasn't caused by the fall, in his opinion.

In the cross examine, the investigator said when Smith realized Mason's oxygen was depleting she called 911. Kitchens told the investigator that he wished, in hindsight, he had called 911 sooner.

The Division of Family and Children Services requested Smith take a drug test that day and she said she believed she would fail the drug test because of methamphetamine, the investigator said.

The Richmond County coroner said an autopsy has been completed on Mason, but the full autopsy report won't be ready for another two or three months. The investigator pulled out his phone and read from an e-mail saying the initial autopsy report said Mason's cause of death was "blunt impact head trauma. Mode was homicide, head trauma inflicted by others."

Smith's attorney pleaded for bond, saying Smith had already missed the child's funeral.The judge decided not to address bond because the state said they plan to upgrade the charges to second degree murder and get the case to a grand jury within a week. The judge warned the state to put this case on the fast track or else he would address bond.

A bond hearing is on the docket for Friday in Richmond County.