The last two photographs, close-ups of the infant, referred to as “Baby Usnick” or “Hannah Usnick” during the trial, showed the deceased child found covered in toilet paper and other bathroom waste in a blue storage bin along with towels inside a red Mitsubishi sedan parked inside a two-story residence on Main Street in St. Elizabeth on Feb. 3, 2009.

Graphic photos of a drug raid crime scene showing a dead, discolored infant wrapped in a white trash bag were presented to the jury for the first time near the conclusion of day one of the Emily Usnick second-degree felony murder trial.

The images, taken by then-Miller County Sheriff’s Office Detective Eric Vernon, were presented by Miller County Prosecuting Attorney Ben Winfrey on May 10 as the defendant Usnick dropped her head and began to cry.

The last two photographs, close-ups of the infant, referred to as “Baby Usnick” or “Hannah Usnick” during the trial, showed the deceased child found covered in toilet paper and other bathroom waste in a blue storage bin along with towels inside a red Mitsubishi sedan parked inside a two-story residence on Main Street in St. Elizabeth on Feb. 3, 2009.

Captain Kip Bartlett of the Mid-Missouri Drug Force, then a reserve investigator for the agency and K-9 handler for the Eldon Police Department and former Miller County Coroner Rick Callahan, were the first and second witnesses offered by the state in the trial expected to conclude Friday evening.

Bartlett testified as to the nature of how the infant was found the night a search warrant was served in rural Miller County. Bartlett said investigators discovered an unusual odor coming from the trunk of the vehicle, which he attributed to the smell of a dead body.

At the time of the discovery, Bartlett said the infant appeared to be fully formed with a full head of hair. During cross-examination, Missouri Public Defender Jason Emmons asked Bartlett if he recalled if the infant’s umbilical cord was wrapped around its neck. The detective refused to re-examine one of the close-up photos to refresh his memory despite repeated requests.

When asked if Bartlett could say for certain whether or not the cord was wrapped around the neck, he ultimately testified he didn’t know.

Former Miller County Coroner Rick Callahan testified that he was responsible for transferring the infant to the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office in Columbia the night of the discovery. Callahan said the infant’s skin was cold and the child exhibited no pulse or respiratory activity at which time she was declared deceased.

Prosecution Gets Personal

The defendant’s personal life was explored at the beginning of day two through sworn testimony by ex-boyfriend Ryan Robison, who dated Usnick on-and-off from 2007 to 2008. In exchange for his testimony for the State, Robison received a reduced charge of one count of felony forgery for writing a bad check in 2008.

The last time he recalled seeing her after the breakup was when she had gotten out of jail and was heading to rehabilitation before he received a call in May 2008.

“She told me she was pregnant,” Robison said. “She told me don’t worry about. Act like it never happened.”

Robison said he was unsure if Usnick was using this as a way to get back at him as she had in the past, lying about being pregnant. Around Dec. 25, 2008, Robison said he ran into Usnick at a Jiffy Stop wearing a sweatshirt and he could tell that she was pregnant.

Robison eventually “laid it all on the line” several weeks after the encounter at the gas station, at which time he was told the baby was given to a cousin of Usnick’s who would provide whatever the baby needed.

The following day Robison said he was contacted by Usnick who told him the police were at the residence in St. Elizabeth. He told her not to claim anything the police might find. She told him she was afraid to go to jail.

Sometime after the arrest and treatment program the two had arranged another meeting at a local park at which time Robison was told by Usnick that the child wasn’t his, later proven to be true.

Audio Recording (Feb. 4, 2009) Vs. Written Statement (July 6, 2009)

Investigator Eric Vernon testified that he was responsible for taking the crime scene photos presented to the jury the prior day. He was also one of the initial investigators to question Usnick after the arrest, along with then fellow Miller County detective John Pehle.

Prior to the trial, several pieces of evidence including confessions and interrogations ruled to have been coerced or in violation of the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights, were suppressed based on a successful motion by Emmons. The State was still able to provide a heavily edited 14-minute audio recording of the original conversation with investigators, along with an accompanying Miranda Rights waiver form from the early hours of Feb. 4, 2009 signed and witnessed.

Vernon interviewed the defendant again later in February, once during April and on July 6, 2009, at which time investigators received a written statement from Usnick that was significantly different from the audio played before the jury. Only the content of the July statement was provided to the jury.

“I’ve been better,” Usnick said as the audio recording began.

After Usnick explained the basics of her living arrangements at the residence in question, investigators began to question her about whether she knew if anybody coming through or staying at the house had been pregnant or recently had a baby. Usnick repeatedly denied any knowledge of such event and denied that she had given birth recently, questioning investigators about their interest.

In the July 6, 2009 written statement from Usnick, however, she said that on the night of Jan. 15, 2009, she had smoked methamphetamine and marijuana. The next day, "feeling unwell," she went to the bathroom. Usnick's statement described the birth which occurred over the next few minutes.

After the infant was delivered head first into the toilet, Usnick said her body was in shock from the home birth. By the time she scooped the infant from the toilet, the water level had risen from the after-birth. The baby showed no signs of life, said Usnick in the written statement.

“I wanted her to have a chance,” she wrote, blaming herself for “poor decisions” made the night before as well as in the past.

Forensic Pathologists

Judge O’Malley allowed forensic pathology testimony — specifically regarding two close-up autopsy photos of the deceased infant — to be heard without the jury present.

“I’m afraid they won’t be able to see anything else,” the judge said.

Dr. Carl Stacy, the contracted Chief Medical Examiner for Miller County, began his testimony explaining the nuances of autopsy photos involving the head and brain area where he discovered bleeding between the brain and the skull.

Stacy said that for these hemorrhages to occur, the blood has to be pumping through the heart which is drawn through the placenta from the mother. He said this was a common occurrence during birth.

Stacy said that in his opinion the infant was still alive while in the birth canal.

When the jury returned, Stacy explained that the umbilical cord was wrapped around the infant’s neck, but not in a “constrictive” enough fashion that there was still blood found within.

“It could have been removed with medical knowledge,” Stacy testified, adding that it wasn’t a life-threatening condition. There were no signs of internal or external injuries, congenital abnormalities and the heart was fully formed, he testified.

The MU professor noted the toxicology report of blood and liver samples revealed a “fairly low level of methamphetamine” in the child.

“I think this baby was viable,” he testified. “By viable — it could have been resuscitated.”

However, Stacy could not conclude, due to moderate decomposition of the body, whether or not the baby had drowned in the toilet after birth or had died in-utero.

A cause of death was never developed, Stacy said, which Emmons said contradicted his prior testimony on the case during an April 2012 evidence hearing.

At that hearing, Stacy testified his “best guess” and “most likely, yes” when questioned if the cause of death was due to the wrapped umbilical cord. This time around, Emmons’ questioned Stacy as to whether the infant had ever drawn a breathe or how long it lived, and the pathologist said he did not know.

A board-certified neuropathologist in four states, Dr. Douglas Miller testified that he observed no anatomical or developmental abnormalities. He could not say for certain when the death had occurred. The infant did not die of infectious or any other disease, he said, and it appeared to be fully developed.