By Cathy Taylor Correspondent
Preliminary examination proceedings began Wednesday morning in Missaukee County District Court for Brittini Grabon, 19, of McBain. Grabon was arrested May 2, 2013 for circumstances surrounding the suspicious death of her 14-month-old son Payton Disbrow. The honorable Charles Parsons presided over the examination.
Payton Disbrow was taken to Cadillac Mercy Hospital’s emergency room in the morning hours of December 18, 2012 by Grabon and her boyfriend. She told hospital personnel that her child needed medical attention. Dr. Robert Kowalski, MD was the ER physician on call and, after examination of the infant, pronounced him dead upon arrival.
William Donnelly, Jr., Prosecuting Attorney for Missaukee County, called several witnesses to the stand during the 8-hour proceeding that included several medical and forensic experts as well as the maternal grandmother of the toddler, Anna Schemke-Bell.
Struggling to hold back tears, Schemke-Bell answered the prosecutor’s questions concerning the injuries she witnessed on Payton’s body during the final visitations she had with her grandson. It was these injuries that prompted the family to contact authorities shortly before the toddler’s death.
Dr. Kowalski was called as an expert witness for the prosecution and gave a detailed account of the condition of the toddler upon arrival at the hospital. He described abrasions and severe bruising to the face, lacerations of the lips, broken teeth, petechial hemorrhaging of the right eye, and dried blood around the mouth and nose. He stated that, in his expert opinion, all of the injuries were sustained by the infant before the actual time of death. It was also Dr. Kowalski’s opinion that Payton had been deceased for some time prior to his arrival at the emergency room, but would not speculate as to a specific time frame.
Amadee Mortensen, Mercy Hospital emergency room nurse, testified that she immediately noticed the severity of the child’s injuries as soon as saw him.
“There were so many bruises to the face and head, the arms and the lower extremities,” recalled Mortensen. “There was dried blood in his mouth and nose. There was also evidence of burns. There were actually wounds that were partially healed with fresh wounds on top of them. There were so many injuries to this child that it was horrifying.”
Mortensen and the emergency room staff concluded that Payton was a victim of repeated blunt force trauma. They promptly notified the Missaukee County Sheriff’s Department with their findings.
Photos taken of the infant by the Sheriff’s Department at the hospital were entered by the Prosecution as evidence. The photos were extremely graphic in nature and depicted a severely bruised and traumatized infant.
Dr. Phillip Croft, the Forensic Pathologist from Lansing’s Sparrow Hospital who conducted the autopsy on the infant, was called to the stand to explain in detail the findings included in his pathology report. The report included nearly two hundred autopsy photos. Dr. Croft’s testimony corroborated the previous testimony given by the hospital staff.
Dr. Croft concluded that although the external trauma suffered by the child was extreme in nature, it was not the primary cause of the infant’s death. Acute severe pneumonia in both lungs, along with an advanced case of blood poisoning cause by untreated infections from wounds and malnutrition, were stated as the primary causes of death for Payton. Dr. Croft listed multiple traumatic injuries and neglect as the secondary causes of death. His official ruling as to the death of Payton Disbrow was homicide.
On the morning of Payton’s death back in December of 2012, troopers from the Michigan State Police as well as MSP crime scene specialists were dispatched to the home that Payton was sharing with his mother, his mother’s boyfriend, the boyfriend’s mother and the mother’s boyfriend. Investigators recovered articles of clothing covered in blood stains, hair and body fluid evidence and a broken tooth believed to be that of Payton Disbrow.
Jennifer Patchin, Forensic Scientist from the MSP laboratory in Grayling, described in some detail the conditions they encountered in the home in which Payton lived prior to his death.
“Upon processing evidence from Payton’s crib which was located in the livingroom area, we immediately noticed an extremely offensive odor coming from the crib,” Patchin began. “It’s an odor of which I have never encountered before. It was extremely bitter—almost fermented in nature. We had to use respirators in order to continue processing the crib.”
Patchin also mentioned during her testimony that portions of the crib seemed to be soaked with some type of liquid. She was not able to elaborate as to what the liquid may have been.
After eight hours of examinations and testimony, Judge Parsons adjourned the proceedings, with the preliminary examination to be continued. As of press time, the date for continuation has not been determined.