To be continued: Preliminary hearing in Dewey toddler death case

BARTLESVILLE, Okla. - A preliminary hearing which began Tuesday for three Dewey residents charged in the February death of a toddler will continue next month.

Marcus Trinidad Mitchell, 23, charged with first-degree murder involving the death of a child appeared in Washington County District Court for Tuesday's hearing and has been ordered to return Sept. 17 and 18 and Oct. 2 when the hearing will continue.

Ashley Ann Williamson, 24, the child's mother, charged with two counts of child neglect and one count of enabling child abuse by injury; and Juanchelle Lanyal Fitch, 48, charged with accessory to first-degree murder after the fact and child neglect, also present at the hearing, are due back the same days.

Mitchell and Williams, each held on $500,000 bonds, and Fitch, on a $250,000 bond were arrested March 9 following the results of a joint investigation by Dewey police and the Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation into the death of 15-month-old Emma Beth Warmberodt.

Records filed at the Washington County Courthouse indicate the investigation began Feb. 24 when Dewey police and first responders were dispatched to a residence on the 300 block of Cherokee in Dewey due to a call reporting a unresponsive child.

Reportedly, they found Warmberodt dead with bruises to her head and chest as well as blood in her mouth and nose. They also found she may have been dead for some time as her body was already stiffening, said police.

An autopsy report the medical examiner later released on the child indicated she had died "as a result of blunt trauma."

During interviews with police, Mitchell reportedly admitted to having struck Emma on the back due to her choking on cereal and said he saw blood on her face before putting her to bed before going to work, said police.

During later interviews, both Williamson and Fitch reportedly admitted to having seen signs of abuse but having done nothing to stop it.

Among those called to the witness stand during Tuesday's hearing were Dewey Police Officer Wade Stephens, the first individual to respond to the 911 call.

He said he arrived to the scene at around 2:30 p.m. that February day and met Fitch who ran out of the house holding the baby yelling "She's not breathing!" When Fitch handed him the baby, he noticed the child was not breathing and began doing CPR.

"There was no response and her face and lips were blue and she was cold to the touch," Stephens told the court describing the baby, noting too the bruising he saw around the child's chin.

Stephens recalled when Fitch was asked how long the girl had been in such a state, after being asked multiple times she said "Ten minutes."

The officer said when Mitchell arrived five to 10 minutes after his arrival, Mitchell "said over and over again how he should have not gone to work and the baby was his life."

Also called to the stand was Bartlesville Ambulance paramedic James Smith who said when he arrived to the address, he saw the fire department on the front porch with the child doing CPR.

He recalled how the child appeared gray and not breathing.

"I noticed a lot of bruising to the head and face," he added, saying he observed bruises to both eyes, the forehead, behind both ears and dried blood coming out of the nose.

Smith told the court Emma's mouth was clenched shut with rigor mortis — a stiffening in the body that occurs two to three hours after the point of death.

In addition to the bruises, which Stephens said were in various stages of healing, he saw lividity — the pooling of blood in the lower areas body after death — in the child's body as well, indicating the child had been dead for a while.

Following testimonies and cross-examinations with these and other witnesses, the judge recessed the court, saying the hearing would continue on the set dates in the next two months.

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