By Cathy Taylor Correspondent
Day two of testimony was held last Thursday in Missaukee County District Court in the preliminary examination of evidence surrounding the death of 14-month-old Payton Disbrow of Falmouth. Payton’s mother Brittini Grabon, 19 , of McBain stands accused of abuse, neglect and the subsequent death of the toddler.
Payton was taken to Cadillac Mercy Hospital’s emergency room the morning of December 18, 2012 by Grabon and her boyfriend Cole Gilde. She told hospital personnel that her son was in distress and in need of medical attention. The emergency room physician pronounced Payton dead upon arrival.
Missaukee County Prosecuting Attorney William Donnelly continued calling witnesses to the stand to testify as to the events that transpired in the wake of Payton’s death. Among those witnesses was Missaukee County Sheriff’s Department Detective Michael Wiers, the arresting officer in the case. Detective Wiers recalled one of the initial conversations he had with Grabon after her arrest on May 2, 2013.
Wiers began, “Brittini stated she was aware that Payton was ill and described his condition on December 17th as having a runny nose, wheezing and listless, as well as being aware of the substantial bruising on his face. She said she noticed the symptoms a few days prior to taking him to the ER.”
According to Wiers, Grabon stated that she had already decided to take the toddler to the ER on the morning of the 18th. She also informed Wiers that she would have taken him for medical attention sooner but was concerned about all the bruises he had on his face and body. She admitted she was afraid that Protective Services would be called and Payton would be taken away from her.
Grabon explained to Wiers that she would occasionally leave her son in the care of her boyfriend’s mother Teresa Parks and boyfriend Robin Thiebault, with whom they were living at the time, in order for she and Gilde to have time alone. According to Grabon, upon returning to the residence, she would notice fresh bruises on the toddler’s body.
Wiers stated, “Brittini said that they (Parks and Thiebault) always had an explanation for the injuries. Brittini told me she was a very trusting person, so she wanted to believe their stories.”
When Detective Wiers questioned Grabon about the broken tooth belonging to Payton that was found under her bed during an investigation of the home, she commented that she wasn’t even aware that Payton had lost a tooth.
Also called to the stand to testify was Grabon’s ex-boyfriend, Cole Gilde. Gilde stated to the court that he had noticed Payton was rapidly losing weight about two weeks before his death.
“When I changed his diaper I saw that his ribs were showing,” Gilde began. “He wasn’t eating nothing. I told her we needed to go to the hospital that night, but she said she was going to wait until morning.”
Gilde further commented that on the morning of Payton’s death, the toddler appeared “white and lifeless, but still breathing.” He testified that it was at that time the decision was made to rush him to the emergency room.
When questioned about Payton’s bruises and other injuries, Gilde replied, “I saw some burns and bruises on him about a week before he died. Brittini said it was because he was falling out of his Pack & Play at night.”
Also called to the stand was Gilde’s mother, Teresa Parks. For most of her testimony, Parks exhibited extreme difficulty remembering the days leading up to Payton’s death.
“I saw that he wasn’t eating very well,” Parks stated. “Brittini told me that she was told by the doctor that it was because he was teething.”
Parks maintained that she never noticed that Payton was extremely ill in the days preceding his death. She also stated that she believed all of the traumatic bruising on Payton’s face and body was just an allergic reaction to medication given to the toddler for Conjunctivitis during a doctor’s visit earlier in the month.
During closing arguments, Prosecutor Donnelly briefly recounted all of the testimony heard by the court during the two-day exam. He described the horrific photographs taken at the hospital on the morning of Payton’s death, as well as the graphic photos taken during the autopsy.
Donnelly concluded by reminding the court, “We have a child that was happy and healthy and, within the span of twelve short days, was dead. The only person that was legally responsible for his well-being was his mother, Brittini Grabon. She made a conscious choice to keep her child from the medical intervention that he clearly needed. And it was that specific act that caused the death of Payton Disbrow.”
Donnelly asked the court to find that all conditions had sufficiently been satisfied in order to bind the case over to Circuit Court, specifically citing charges of 1st degree felony homicide contingent with 1st degree criminal child abuse, felony involuntary manslaughter, and a lesser charge of 2nd degree criminal child abuse.
Cameron Harwell, Grabon’s court-appointed attorney, countered the Prosecution’s argument, stating that sufficient cause for granting the 1st degree felony charges had not been established. He continued to suggest that it would have been highly improbable for the average person to discern whether or not Payton’s outward symptoms were indeed life-threatening. Harwell stated that it was far more likely that Payton’s condition became life-threatening over the span of just a few hours, rather than over the course of several days. Harwell concluded by stating that specific intent needed to substantiate the charge of 1st degree murder was clearly not met by the Prosecution. At best, it would only support a charge of 2nd degree.
After both parties had presented their closing arguments, Missaukee County District Court Judge Charles Parsons delivered his stern verdict.
“The court finds there is probable cause to believe Brittini Grabon has committed each and every one of the charges against her,” Judge Parsons began. “This court does not believe that she deliberately intended to kill her child, but the court does find that she knowingly created a very high risk of death by her failure to seek medical treatment for her son when it was obvious that medical treatment was required.”
Parsons elaborated, “Within a 12 day time period, this child went from 26 pounds to 18.7 pounds. That is a 25% loss of body weight. This alone should have sent up red flags for the mother. The pictures taken of the infant’s face when it was brought to the hospital were absolutely horrifying. This child was so sick that it should have been apparent to the caregiver that medical attention was needed. But she admitted that she deliberately did not seek prompt medical attention until it was too late.”
Grabon was bound over for arraignment in Missaukee County’s 28th Circuit Court. The hearing is scheduled for June 25, 2013 at 2:30 pm.