Jurors hear man’s two versions of events that led to child’s death
By Ruth Ann Krause Post-Tribune correspondent September 26, 2012 4:28PM
Levi Hiatt. | Provided Photo~Sun-Times Media ptmet
Updated: October 29, 2012 6:26AM
Lake Superior Court jurors heard a Hobart man on trial for murder and neglect of a dependent in the death of his ex-girlfriend’s 3-year-old son describe two versions of what happened to the boy.
Levi Edward Hiatt, 28, initially told Griffith police detectives that he was playing with little Comer Watkins V and picked him up and dropped him on the bed to get him in a better mood when the child landed on the child safety rail and injured his genitals. He also said the child’s head struck the edge of the TV, which was inches from the bed.
In a second statement to Griffith police Detective Nick Rentas and Lt. Matt Argadine, Hiatt admitted he had initially lied during questioning about the incident, which occurred April 11, 2010, at an apartment at 1733 N. Argobast St. that Hiatt shared with the boy’s mother.
Hiatt told investigators the child’s penis was injured after he decided to wake up the boy by jumping on the bed. When he landed, Hiatt said his knee went into the child’s groin as he lay under the blankets. Comer began screaming, and Hiatt said he took the child into the bathroom and told him to take off his pants so he could look at the area. The boy wasn’t listening, so Hiatt said he grabbed Comer by his ankles and “pulled too hard,” causing the boy to strike his head on the tub and the floor. Comer’s eyes rolled back in his head a little, Hiatt said. “He wouldn’t respond to anything. I tried to wake him up. He wouldn’t respond,” Hiatt said.
Hiatt said he put a diaper on Comer and put him in bed, placing a bag with ice on his privates. Hiatt said he also searched the Internet for information on seizures, head injuries and penis injuries and was hopeful that the child would be OK because he had read that after a head injury an individual could feel tired.
In the 15-minute second taped statement to police, Hiatt tearfully tells detectives he was panicked and scared. “I should have called (911),” he said.
“At that point you knew it was serious, didn’t you, Levi?” Rentas asked him.
“Yeah,” Hiatt responded.
Hiatt admitted he never told the child’s mother, Stephanie Smith, that Comer was injured and never called 911 until the following afternoon when he found the boy unresponsive. The mother left Comer with Hiatt while she worked a late shift doing inventory. She testified that Comer appeared to be asleep when she returned to work the following morning.
“I’m sorry for lying. I’m sorry for everything. I’m sorry,” Hiatt said, crying. “It was an accident. I should have called through. I should have.”
Testimony is expected to resume Thursday morning and will likely continue into next week.