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February 20, 2013

Prosecutor: Girl’s injuries were no accident

GREENVILLE — Prosecutors said medical personnel believed wounds suffered by a small girl were too severe to have come from the child falling out of a first floor window.

“It didn’t add up,” said Assistant District Attorney Calvin Grogan during opening arguments in the trial of Trevor Scott Copeland of Quinlan. “She had internal injuries. Those injuries wouldn’t have been caused by an accident.”

Copeland has pleaded not guilty to a charge of injury to a child by an act.

The second defendant charged in the case, Erin Elizabeth Saari of West Tawakoni, agreed to a plea bargain arrangement in exchange for her testifying against Copeland. Saari was the first witness during Tuesday’s first day of trial.

Testimony in the trial is scheduled to resume this morning in the 196th District Court.

Saari and Copeland were arrested on Dec. 14, 2011 and were charged in what authorities claimed was an assault on Saari’s 2 year-old daughter.

The indictment alleged the pair injured the child by “punching, kicking, hitting with blunt force trauma and/or strangling with hands, fists, ground, and/or an object unknown to the grand jury.”

The child was reported to have recovered from the injuries.

Investigators with the Hunt County Sheriff’s Office became involved with the case after receiving a Dec. 7, 2011 call from the Hunt Regional Medical Center. The child’s injuries were initially reported as being received after falling out of a first floor residential window.

According to investigators, Saari reported the fall occurred sometime during the overnight hours, although Sheriff Randy Meeks said upon initial observations, the child was allegedly found to have bruising to her forehead, both sides of the head, the neck, chest, abdomen, both arms and both legs.

Meeks said the injuries observed by the deputies seemed inconsistent with Saari’s account, and investigators and Child Protective Services were contacted and responded to the hospital.

Meeks said multiple tests conducted by medical staff found the child needed to be transported to another hospital for further treatment.

Saari said she and Copeland had been living in the trailer home for about three months. On the night of Dec. 6, 2011, the couple had been drinking and Saari said she passed out on the couch, while the child slept in the master bedroom. Saari said Copeland woke her sometime later, with the child in his arms.

“He was asking me why she was outside,” Saari said, testifying the girl had scratches on her head and shoulder, but wasn’t crying. “She was just kind of staring blankly.”

The next day, Saari awoke to find bruises on the back of the girl’s legs and “blotching” around her eyes and decided to take her to the emergency room after she started vomiting.

The hospital personnel kept the child and Saari returned home and admitted checking the Internet for information about the injuries, “and what kind of sentence you could get for a child abuse case.”

Saari said the search was her idea and not Copeland’s, although the defendant believed he would be blamed for the injuries.

“He said he was going to go down for this, whether he did it or not ... because he’s the man of the house,” Saari said.

The girl was later transferred to Children’s Medical Center after her condition worsened and Saari noted a Child Protective Services worker told her the injuries, “were like she had gotten into an accident with no seat belt on.”

Saari gave up custody of the girl and under the plea agreement following Copeland’s trial will be sentenced to two years in a state jail.

The injury to a child charge is a first-degree felony, punishable by a maximum sentence upon conviction of from five to 99 years to life in prison and an optional fine of up to $10,000.

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