Coroner says child had scars all over body
CHAMBERLAIN -- Four-year-old Mason Naser's liver and pancreas were severely injured due to blunt force trauma, which caused him to bleed internally, according to expert testimony Tuesday.
The trial of Donika Gonzales continued Tuesday at the Brule County Courthouse. She is accused of beating Naser to death for wetting his pants in February 2013.
Dr. Kenneth Snell, the medical examiner for the eastern South Dakota and Minnehaha County coroner, said a combination of injuries caused Naser's death.
Blunt force trauma to the abdomen resulted in the left side of the liver being severed and the pancreas being cut in half. The trauma also caused cuts to the adrenal gland and the aorta, the largest blood vessel in the body, Snell said.
"The vessel was torn open and a piece of liver was sticking into the vessel," he said of findings during the autopsy he performed on Naser. "That's significant because that blood goes to the heart and then to the lungs."
That clue led Snell to find a piece of liver had traveled through the aorta to the heart and into Naser's left lung, which cut off the blood flow and oxygen to that organ, he said.
Gonzales, 23, is charged with second-degree murder of Naser, two alternate counts of first-degree manslaughter, one count of aggravated assault and one count of felony child abuse.
Gonzales was Tyler Naser Sr.'s live-in girlfriend when Mason Naser died Feb. 21, 2013, as a result of blunt force injury to the abdomen due to alleged abuse. Gonzales is not the boy's mother, but Tyler Naser Sr. is the boy's father. Tuesday was the third day of an ongoing trial that is expected to last throughout the week.
The prosecution showed autopsy photos to the jury and court, depicting bruising and abrasions Naser suffered to his face, left eye, cheek, head, arms, back and legs.
"This child had many scars all over his body," Snell said.
Snell also explained photos shown of an internal examination of Naser's body depicting rib fractures and the lacerated, severed liver.
He told the jury blunt force trauma to Naser's abdomen caused him to bleed internally.
When medical personnel, family members and neighbors performed CPR on Naser, some of those actions could have caused injuries, Snell said, like cracked or broken ribs. However, he testified children's bones are more pliable than adults' and wouldn't fracture or break as easily.
He said the rib fractures he found on Naser's rear fifth and sixth ribs, plus the fatal trauma to his liver and pancreas, would not be caused by someone performing CPR.
He said CPR can cause minor damage to the liver, but nothing as serious as what Naser suffered.
The fractures to his rear ribs were caused by blunt force trauma, Snell said.
During the autopsy, Snell discovered a large amount of blood pooled in the abdomen, which was removed during the child's autopsy.
"This is acute blood loss," Snell said. "This was not slowly bleeding over time."
The blood loss originated from damage to Naser's liver -- he suffered a laceration to the front of his liver and the left side of his liver was severed.
In cross examination, Doug Papendick, an attorney for Gonzales, asked whether these injuries could have been caused by a fall from a bunk bed or 4-wheeler -- which were both explanations for Naser's injuries in earlier testimony.
Snell said those falls could cause bruises like those he found on Naser's scalp, but could not cause the damage found to Naser's liver, pancreas and aorta.
The trial will continue today at 9 a.m. at the Brule County Courthouse in Chamberlain.