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Woman to be retried for toddler's death after hung jury

Posted: August 15, 2012 - 12:03am
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Jim Blaylock/staff  Judge Michael Annis directs a question to Lawanda Tripp who is accused of the death of a child in her care.
Jim Blaylock/staff Judge Michael Annis directs a question to Lawanda Tripp who is accused of the death of a child in her care.

The trial of a Martinez woman accused in the death of a toddler she was baby-sitting ended in a mistrial Saturday and will likely be tried again this fall.

The Columbia County jury considering charges against Lawanda Concettes Tripp, 41, announced they were deadlocked Saturday after more than 11 hours of deliberation.

Tripp’s trial began Aug. 6 and testimony lasted until Friday. Tripp is charged with murder in the death of 22-month-old Teaira Michele Hall, who was in Tripp’s care when she died on Nov. 15, 2009, from head injuries.

“There’s going to be a retrial,” Tripp’s attorney, Victor Hawk, said after the announcement.

After declaring a mistrial, Superior Court Judge Michael N. Annis said he’d coordinate with the attorneys to reschedule the trial, possibly for September or October.

Authorities were called to Tripp’s Avery Landing home on Nov. 15, 2009, in response to a report the child wasn’t breathing. At the time of the call, Teaira was in Tripp’s care, said Columbia County sheriff’s Capt. Steve Morris.

“It was the death of innocence in many ways,” Assistant District Attorney John Markwalter said Friday of Teaira’s death.

Teaira died from multi traumatic head injuries, according to Columbia County Coroner Vernon Collins. She suffered injuries and swelling to her brain and optical structures, Markwalter said.

There were differing opinions from experts testifying for both sides as to when the fatal injuries occurred. The two forensic pathologists said large bruises inside of Teaira’s scalp were old, possibly with new bruises on top.

Hawk said the injuries happened two days before Tripp took care of Teaira.

Teaira banged her head during a tantrum, causing a seizure and her death, he said.

Markwalter said Teaira might have had previous injuries but the fatal ones happened while the girl was in Tripp’s care and were likely inflicted by Tripp.

Tripp denied harming Teaira.

“I never did anything to hurt Teaira,” Tripp said. “I loved that little girl as if she was my own.”

The jury deliberated for four hours Friday night and returned for more than seven more hours Saturday.

“Right now, everybody is going to evaluate their position and decide how to move forward,” Markwalter said.

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