Defense lawyers for a 20-year-old babysitter charged with murder in the death of a toddler during a sleepover at her Green apartment this summer plan to challenge law enforcement findings that it allegedly was a case of shaken baby syndrome.
Tiffani D. Calise, who is being held in the Summit County Jail in lieu of a $500,000, 10-percent cash bond, appeared Thursday before Common Pleas Judge Alison McCarty with a defense team now in place.
William T. Whitaker, an Akron attorney with previous experience in suchcases, informed McCarty that he will be assisting Calise's court-appointed counsel, Donald R. Hicks, and will do so on a pro-bono basis.
Attorneys from both sides agreed on a Jan. 12 trial date in McCarty's court.
In other developments, the cause of the Aug. 12 death of 23-month-old Aaliyah Nevaeh Ali has been reported by the Summit County Medical Examiner's Office as ''complications of blunt impact(s) to the head.''
The ruling on manner of death was ''homicide: assaulted by another person(s).''
Deputy Medical Examiner Dorothy E. Dean, who performed the autopsy, wrote in the ''Opinion'' section of the autopsy report that Aaliyah died ''from the severe injuries to her brain that she sustained during the assault.''
Dean stated that the agency's opinion was based on the ''findings at autopsy'' and ''investigative information,'' apparently from law enforcement officers and medical staff at Akron Children's Hospital where the child was taken by an emergency squad and admitted in the early hours of Aug. 10.
A list of injuries found by Dean during the autopsy included: internal pressure on the brain; bleeding in the area between the brain and skull; optic nerve and retinal bleeding; bleeding of the right-sided gel in the eye; and damage to central nervous system cells from reduced oxygen supply to the brain.
Full skeletal X-rays performed at Children's Hospital showed no fractures, according to the autopsy report.
Calise, who is six months pregnant, was with Aaliyah and her own daughter on the night of Aug. 9 inside her Mayfair Road apartment.
At some point, Calise gave the child a bath. She told sheriff's deputies and family members that she left Aaliyah alone momentarily in a nearly empty bathtub to retrieve a towel.
When she was away, Calise said she heard a thud and returned to find the child unconscious.
Minutes after Calise called 911, according to the autopsy's ''Report of Investigation,'' paramedics arrived at the apartment at 11:52 p.m.
'''Aaliyah was found face up on the living room floor with a small amount of vomit on the floor next to her,'' the medical examiner's investigator, Michael McGill, reported.
His report stated that the child was undressed and her hair was wet.
McCarty has approved fees for the defense to hire an independent forensic expert, as yet unnamed, to examine and evaluate the autopsy findings.
''This is a case in which medical testimony is going to be rather crucial,'' McCarty told attorneys from both sides during Calise's court appearance.
Summit County Assistant Prosecutor Gregory Peacock, who is handling the government's case against Calise, told the judge that the prosecution's witnesses will include the deputy medical examiner, Dean; Children's emergency room physicians; and Dr. R. Daryl Steiner, who heads the Children's Hospital child abuse center.
Calise's lawyers and family members, who were present in court for the hearing, declined to comment on details of the case.
Ed Meyer can be reached at 330-996-3784 or email@example.com.