BARTLESVILLE, Okla. - Testimony in the preliminary hearing of three Dewey residents incarcerated following the death of a toddler last February continued Tuesday and bore tales of ghosts, visions and drugs.
Danielle Patterson, who lived in the same house as 22-year-old Marcus Mitchell, 23-year-old Ashley Williamson, the baby's mother, and 48-year-old Juanchelle Fitch, Mitchell's mother, told the judge she saw a vision of the 15-month-old Emma Beth Warmberodt dead in her playpen before she walked into the baby's room and discovered the body lifeless and cold as she had foreseen.
Tuesday was the third day of testimony in the hearing for Mitchell, charged with first-degree murder involving the death of a child; Williamson, charged with two counts of child neglect and one count of enabling child abuse by injury; and Fitch, charged with accessory to first-degree murder after the fact and child neglect.
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.
Both Williamson and Fitch were reported to have admitted during later interviews to having seen signs of abuse but having done nothing to stop it.
During Patterson's time at the witness stand on Tuesday, she described how she, Mitchell, Ashley and Fitch lived with five other individuals at the house — her aunt's house — and the day she discovered Emma dead.
She said for six months leading up to Feb. 24, she had been taking care of the child as the parents were at work and continually discovered bruises on the child's body — and once, around Christmas, a black eye.
“I saw bruises every time I woke her up,” she said. “I didn't think they were right, but I didn't know who did it.”
Asked by Fitch's defense attorney Mark Kane if their had been ghosts in the home, a question based on a past interview with Patterson where ghosts were presented as an possible explanation for the bruises, she said, “There were ghosts in the basement — That's what Chelle, Marcus and Ashley told me."
She described how later as an infection developed on the Emma's chin, concern about infection brought on a discussion about bringing the child to the doctor, but the decision was made “to wait until the bruises went away.”
Patterson said that on the morning of Feb. 24, the day she found child dead, she went to the doctor's office and then to McDonald's and during that time received a text from Mitchell saying Emma had choked on some cereal but was okay. He later notified her he had put Emma down to sleep and was leaving for work.
A later text then told her to get home right away. When she arrived home, she said, she entered the doorway, set down the groceries and noticed the home was unusually quiet. She then entered and went to the bathroom.
It was there she had the vision.
“Me or my sister went into the room and found Emma exactly like I found her,” Patterson said, recounting what she saw.
Describing what in fact she found, she said the room where Warmberodt laid in her playpen was “really cold.” Approaching the pen and seeing no movement, she took the covers off.
“She looked so peaceful but the bruises looked too dark. I touched her and she felt cold,” said Patterson, saying then she checked her pulse and then lifted the child's shirt.
“She wasn't moving.”
During another part of her testimony, she said Mitchell would often be frustrated at the child's crying and would put Warmberodt to sleep.
Asked by Jared Sigler with the District Attorney's Office how Mitchell put the child to sleep, Patterson said Mitchell would cover up Emma's nose and mouth until she passed out.
Before Patterson was called to the stand, the court called Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation Crime Scene Investigator Brad Green to testify.
He described the house as dirty, smelling of urine and dog feces, and as having dog feces on the floor.
Green recounted how he found a blood-type substance on two blankets draped over the playpen and the same apparent blood on two wet — and one nearly dry — baby wipes in the