A Marion man will spend 18 to 24 years in prison after being found guilty of two felony counts of child abuse by a Caldwell County jury on Monday, December 16, 2019, wrapping up a trial of more than two weeks.
The 12-member panel needed approximately 90 minutes to return a guilty verdict against 34-year-old Dustin Allen Lewis for felony intentional child abuse inflicting serious bodily injury and felony intentional child abuse inflicting serious physical injury.
The Honorable Daniel A. Kuehnert, Superior Court Judge from Burke County, imposed the prison term for Lewis, who will serve his period of incarceration in the custody of the North Carolina Division of Adult Corrections.
The trial started with jury selection on December 3. The State began its evidence presentation on December 4 and rested on December 13. The defense did not present any evidence.
Following closing arguments on December 13, the jury returned to court and delivered its verdict late Monday morning.
The offenses occurred when the female victim was 2 to 3 months old in 2014 and led to the child’s injuries as noted by a child abuse expert from Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte who offered testimony on behalf of the State.
The doctor spoke of old rib fractures the child had suffered prior to her admittance to Levine Children’s Hospital in December 2014. There also were fresh injuries that were inflicted about a week before the baby was hospitalized, including subdural hematomas, retinal hemorrhaging, more rib fractures and a broken tibia. Testimony from the doctor indicated that the injuries were not accidental but intentional.
When interviewed by law enforcement, Lewis consistently denied he had done anything to the child. But during subsequent interviews he began to provide explanations for what might have happened, telling investigators of throwing the baby up in the air, dropping her when throwing her in the air and allowing herto fall forward into a pool of water, hitting her head on the tub.
The child, now 5 years old, is blind and quadriplegic, suffers from cerebral palsy and epilepsy. She also wears leg and arm braces, and cannot walk or sit up on her own. The State’s child abuse expert noted that her medical conditions now are a result of the abuse she suffered as an infant.
Joey Morrison, formerly of Granite Falls Police Department, and Shane Greene of the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation handled investigation of the case. Assistant District Attorney Nancy Lee prosecuted the offenses for the State.
CONTACT: Nathan Key