Hillsboro man found guilty of child abuse

A 24-year-old Hillsboro man charged with one count of child abuse was found guilty Monday in the Marion County 8th Judicial District Court with Judge Michael Powers presiding.

Adam Miller of Hillsboro listened as the jury of eight men and four women, having deliberated about two hours, returned with their unanimous verdict.

Miller?s defense attorney, Stephen Johnson of Newton, said he was disappointed with the outcome.

?We were looking for an acquittal as an early Christmas present for Adam, (wife) Debbie and (son) Owen,? he said.

Marion County Attorney Susan Robson said last week this was the first time in her nine years as the county prosecutor to take a child abuse case to a jury trial.

Following Monday?s verdict, Robson had no comment on the outcome of the case.

The three-day trial started Thursday, Dec. 17, and hinged on whether Adam Miller was the person who harmed his son between Oct. 7, 8 or 9, 2008, or if a previous accident two weeks before those dates caused the subdural hematoma, which is a collection of blood on the surface of the brain.

The state needed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Owen?s subdural hematoma was ?acute,? meaning it happened within three days or less from some type of strike to the right front of the head, crossing to the left, which is where the injury was located.

Testifying for the prosecution were Hillsboro Police Chief Dan Kinning, Hillsboro police officer David Funk, Wichita police officer Rex Leffew and Sheri Lubbers, Owen?s daycare provider.

Also testifying for the prosecution were Katherine Melhorn, pediatrician, who is also the sexual assault nurse examiner and sexual assault response team pediatric medical director at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, and Darren Orme, Wichita radiologist.

The defense countered by saying the subdural hematoma was ?chronic??two weeks or more old?which would have correlated to another timeline when Owen fell on some concrete steps at the family residence in September 2008.

In support of their case, the defense called Doug Miller, Owen?s grandfather, Debbie Miller and three members of the Preferred Medical Associates staff from the Hillsboro Family Practice Clinic: physician Randall Claassen, nurse pratitioner Melissa Batterton and physician?s assistant Rebecca Green.

Also called to testify were Jon Jantz, pediatrician, and Richard Gilmartin, retired neurologist, who still teaches psychiatry programs and appears as an expert witness in defense cases dealing with neurology.

Following Owen?s fall in September, he was examined by Claassen. As part of the examination, a CT scan, also called computerized tomography, was completed on Owen?s head.

Claassen sent Owen home with instructions to watch him carefully for changes in is mental status, including nausea, headache or dizziness, which would require additional medical attention.

Five days after the accident, Owen saw Jantz, the Millers? pediatrician and a physician at Cottonwood Pediatrics, Newton. Jantz testified by telephone he had seen Owen Sept. 30, saw no brain trauma and that his motor skills were appropriate.

The next time Owen would see medical personnel was Oct. 8, which according to the prosecution was due to a whole new set of injuries.

The defense, however, countered saying the doctor visit was prompted by new symptoms stemming from the earlier accident on the concrete steps outside the Miller home on Sept. 25.

Batterton testified she saw Owen for the first time Oct. 8, saying she believed he could have had a viral illness.

Green testified to seeing Owen in the emergency room Oct. 9. She said the Millers brought their son in saying he was feverish, fussy and had a decreased appetite.

She also testified she was concerned that Owen?s right hip was tender and he was hyper extending his neck.

Green called Via Christi/St. Francis Hospital in Wichita for Owen to be seen there.

Once in Wichita on Oct. 9, Melhorn was asked to review Owen?s documentation and she also did her own examination.

In her opinion, Owen suffered a non-accidental brain injury trauma as evidenced by a CT?scan done Oct. 9 and again Oct. 10, to make sure nothing had changed.

Without an eyewitness to the October 2008 trauma, or when and where it could have happened, jurors were asked to decide if Adam was responsible for the acute subdural hematoma prosecution witness testified had happened Oct. 7, 8 or 9 and not two weeks earlier.

The sentencing phase in Adam Miller?s trial is set for 1 p.m. Monday, Jan. 25, at the Marion County Courthouse.

Miller was allowed to remain free on bond pending sentencing with a requirement that he have no personal contact with Owen.

Child abuse is a person felony and, depending on his past criminal history, Miller could be facing from 31 to 34 months in a state prison.

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