Lawrence man found guilty of aggravated battery, neglect in death of 9-month-old girl
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Wednesday night, a jury found a Lawrence man guilty of aggravated battery and neglect of a dependent in the 2014 death of his girlfriend’s 9-month-old daughter.
The man, Corey Bullock, was also charged with murder, but the jury was hung on that charge. He will face a status hearing on November 10.
On Sept. 30, 2014, Aiva McGee seemed sleepy and sick, according to court records. Apryl Hammer, the mother, held the little girl for most of the day until she went to work at Denny’s. She left Aiva in Bullock’s care at the Lawrence apartment they shared.
Less than an hour later, Aiva stopped breathing. Bullock called his mother, who called 911.
The little girl was rushed to the hospital, where she was placed on life support. Aiva died Oct. 2, 2014 of multiple blunt force trauma injuries that officials said she suffered within days of her death, court records state. She also had older injuries, including broken ribs and a lacerated liver, that were between two and five weeks old.
The investigation revealed that at least four people noticed injuries on Aiva, but no one sought help until days later when the little girl stopped breathing, court records state. Bruises covered her head and legs. She had a large scabbed wound on her skull.
Aiva’s mother, Apryl Hammer, told police she first noticed bruises on her daughter around 7 a.m. Sept. 28, 2014, after she got home from work. Bullock, who had been watching Aiva, said the little girl must have hit her head on the crib, court record show.
The next day, Hammer said, her daughter’s bruises were darker, and the little girl appeared sick.
Hammer Googled concerns about her daughter’s condition. She searched “red bruises all over my daughter’s head where did they come from” and “my daughter had bruises and a few days later they became red and more worse,” but neither she nor Bullock contacted a doctor, court records state.
Bullock and Hammer were both later arrested in Tennessee, where the two had moved to live with Bullock’s family. Hammer faced a murder charge at one time, but pleaded down to a lesser felony charge of neglect of a dependent. Under the terms of the plea agreement, Hammer will be sentenced to 20 years in prison followed by two years of probation, court records show. Her sentencing hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday.
During the trial, a doctor who treated Aiva testified that her injuries were not consistent with Bullock’s claims that the little girl had fallen and hit her head.
Bullock’s defense team argued strongly that there was no proof that Bullock inflicted the injuries that killed Aiva. Attorneys argued that it was possible Apryl Hammer, who spent more time alone with Aiva, could have inflicted the injuries. Defense attorneys admitted in court that Bullock was guilty of neglect of a dependent. But, they argued, there was enough doubt for the jury to acquit Bullock of the murder and aggravated battery charges.
Prosecutors countered that argument with testimony from the doctor who treated Aiva. They argued that the final, fatal head injury that left a large knot in the middle of Aiva’s forehead was not there when Apryl Hammer left for work September 30th. Hammer and Bullock both testified that Aiva had been lying on a couch, holding and drinking a bottle when Hammer left the apartment. Bullock told police that Aiva was drinking the bottle when she stopped breathing. But the doctor testified that the head injury that left the knot on Aiva’s head would have made it impossible for the little girl to hold and drink from a bottle.
Prosecutors argued that Bullock, who was 17 at the time, was the only one who could have inflicted the head injury that killed Aiva.
The defense team worked to cast more doubt on Bullock’s guilt by pointing out accounts of strange behavior exhibited by Apryl Hammer following her daughter’s death. Those included Hammer acting strangely and frequently disappearing at the hospital while Aiva was still on life support. Another account described Hammer hiding under a blanket and failing to respond to the doctor when he came in to give her an update on the little girl.
The defense also asked the jury to consider why Apryl Hammer would accept Corey Bullock’s marriage proposal after Aiva’s death if she believed Bullock was the person who killed her daughter.
A sentencing date has not been set yet for the charges that Bullock was found guilty of.