Traverse City Record-Eagle

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March 23, 2014

Attorney to hire experts in Benzie infant death case

BEULAH — A Benzie County infant death case is on hold after a judge granted an attorney’s request to hire medical experts.

Alyce Marie Morales, 19, of Cicero, Ill., gave birth to a daughter, Marie, in a tent on July 22 while on vacation with her parents in Platte River Campground. Morales faces an open count of murder and manslaughter charges in 19th Circuit Court after her infant died nine hours later in a hospital from what authorities termed “serious injuries.”

Nineteenth Circuit Court Judge James Batzer last week granted Morales’ attorney Jesse Williams’ request that the court pay for a forensic pathologist and neonatologist to pinpoint what caused the injuries.

“We have injuries, but no one who testified so far can tell you where they possibly came from,” Williams said.

Benzie County Prosecutor Sara Swanson charged Morales after a forensic pathologist found the infant suffered a skull fracture and a liver laceration and listed the cause of death as homicide.

She didn’t raise objections to Williams’ request.

“We’ll have to see what the experts have to say. Maybe they’ll agree and maybe they won’t,” Swanson said.

Williams’ motion details several circumstances in Morales’ case and the infant’s treatment that could explain the injuries. It states medical studies indicate improper insertions of chest tubes could cause liver lacerations. Skull fractures could be caused during childbirth or by accident.

“There’s multiple ways the injuries could have occurred,” Williams said.

The document also questions whether medical professionals failed to diagnose and adequately treat the infant’s injuries.

Batzer’s decision takes the case off the court’s calendar for 60 days while Williams consults with the experts.

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