Opening statements presented in trial of couple charged with murder in infant son’s death

Crime Watch

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Jurors heard opening statements Monday in the trial of a couple charged with murder in the death of their 2-month-old son, who died a week after being found severely injured at a Tehachapi trailer park in 2018.

Matthew Norwood, 31, and Brittney Collins, 30, are responsible for a slew of injuries suffered by their son during his short life, prosecutor Eric Smith said. Norwood inflicted the injuries, and Collins knew about the ongoing abuse and did nothing to protect the boy, according to the prosecutor.

The child, named Abel, suffered skull fractures, broken ribs and a broken leg where an X-ray showed the bone was separated in two. An examination of the fractured ribs indicated some had been broken at different times than others.

Abel died Oct. 24, 2018, a week after he was brought to Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera.

Teryl Wakeman, Norwood’s public defender, said his client is guilty — but of manslaughter, not murder. He told the jury he will further explain his reasoning during his closing statement, after all the evidence has been presented.

“This is a very difficult case,” Wakeman said. “And this is a very sad case.”

Collins’ attorney, Gary Turnbull, said Smith exaggerated the extent to which Collins knew about the abuse.

He said Collins has persevered despite having a difficult start in life. Abandoned by her mother, she was in the foster system until she was 19, but she graduated high school, got a job and was taking classes for a degree in criminal justice when she was arrested, Turnbull said. She’s since been taking courses while in custody at Lerdo Jail.

Collins wanted to make something more of herself, and fill a void that had been missing all her life, the attorney said.

“The evidence is going to show all she wanted in life was to be loved, and to love,” Turnbull said.

Smith, however, said Collins turned a blind eye to the repeated abuse Norwood administered to their child. The prosecutor played a video for the jury where Collins told investigators she saw Norwood squeeze the baby, choke him and slap him on the head. She never called 911 or otherwise intervened.

Collins knew Norwood used methamphetamine, and that he had repeatedly hurt their baby, yet she still left Abel in his care on the day the child was hospitalized, Smith said.

The prosecutor said he will ask the jury to return guilty verdicts on charges of murder and assault on a child under 8 resulting in death, which would result in life terms in prison for each defendant.

Two juries have been empaneled — one to hear the evidence against Norwood, the other for Collins. Opening statements for each defendant were conducted separately, as will other portions of the trial.

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