Trial begins against Spokane gang member accused of breaking toddler’s arms and legs
The 5-year-old girl, with a voice like a mouse, walked into court Monday wearing a rose-print skirt and carrying a stuffed toy as she climbed onto the witness stand.
Only a couple times did she direct her eyes toward the man she once referred to as “Daddy,” even though Cedric E. “Dirty” Burton is not her biological father. Burton, 31, faces a trial not only to determine who broke all of the girl’s limbs in 2016 when she was 2, it also will determine whether Burton ever again walks free.
Although the girl testified in a brief hearing Monday and said she did not remember what happened on Oct. 29, 2016, when she was 2, evidence shows that she suffered five fractures. Those included breaks to both arms and legs and a spiral fracture to her right femur.
Jamie Meyers, who briefly served as the girl’s foster mother following the girl’s injuries, testified that the girl told her who caused the injuries.
“She said, ’Daddy hurt me. He pushed me out the van,” Meyers said.
Burton originally was charged with first-degree assault of a child, but Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Eugene Cruz amended the charge Monday to second-degree assault of a child. However, a conviction still would qualify as a third strike, meaning that if Superior Court Judge Julie McKay finds Burton guilty, he will face life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Burton was arrested Nov. 11, 2016, some 13 days after the girl was taken to a local hospital.
Court documents say Burton, his girlfriend and her three children were living at the Econo Lodge Inn at 1503 S. Rustle Road and were preparing to watch a movie in the motel room on the afternoon of Oct 29, 2016. Burton offered to take the children to a store to get some candy, and they left in a van.
Burton returned about 15 minutes later carrying the girl, whose leg was visibly broken, according to court documents. He told the mother the girl had tried to step out of the van but got tangled in the seatbelt and fell to the ground.
Burton and his girlfriend took the girl to Deaconess Hospital, where Burton gave a fake name to hospital staff and coerced the mother to lie about what had happened, court documents state. Burton then rode in an ambulance with the girl as she was rushed to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center.
Once at Sacred Heart, Burton told Reserve Spokane Police Officer Kenneth Mayhew that he had a different family emergency and left. The mother initially said she had been present when her daughter was injured, but later admitted Burton was watching the children instead.
Doctors said the girl’s myriad injuries, including extensive bruising and lacerations to the face, could not have been caused by a fall like the one described.
The girl’s 4-year-old sister told a forensic interviewer that Burton was “spinning around” her little sister’s leg, which may explain the spiral fracture in her right femur, according to court documents.
Spokane police obtained surveillance footage from the motel, which shows the girl getting into the van without issue. The van returns 15 minutes later, and Burton stands in the doorway as the girl attempts to stand up inside.
The girl then falls onto the ground and lands in a prone position, without putting her arms out to catch herself, the video shows. Burton tries to put her on her feet, but she can’t stand.
Police and prosecutors have said the 29-year-old belongs to a gang based in Compton, California.
In 2010, Burton was found guilty of assault for trying to run over a bodybuilder in a downtown Spokane parking lot. That same year, he pleaded guilty to four felonies after serving as the getaway driver for another gang member who shot and killed a man.
Burton also was convicted of assault in connection with a 2005 gang riot and murder at the Crazy 8’s bar.
Burton is being defended by attorney John Stine. The bench trial, which means that Judge McKay alone will decided Burton’s guilt or innocence, is expected to last all week.