Trial delayed in fatal abuse case
POWELL — A trial has been delayed for a Cody man and woman who stand accused of fatally abusing a 2-year-old child earlier this year.
Moshe Williams, 30, and Carolyn Aune, 28, each face a count of first-degree murder in connection with the April 4 death of Williams’ daughter, Paisleigh.
Williams and Aune have pleaded not guilty, and a trial was originally set to begin Monday in Park County District Court. However, attorneys involved in the case informed District Court Judge Bobbi Overfield earlier this month that they weren’t ready. Defense attorneys for Williams and Aune said they were still receiving information from the Park County Attorney’s Office, while prosecutors said they were still gathering evidence as well.
Williams and Aune have also asked the judge to force prosecutors to reveal more information about their theory of the case.
According to charging documents, medical professionals concluded that Paisleigh had been dealt a forceful “gut punch” that separated her intestines and that her caregivers were slow in seeking medical attention for the injury, which eventually proved fatal.
Doctors also found evidence that the child had suffered broken bones and other injuries in the weeks and months before her death.
Williams and Aune reportedly offered explanations for the injuries, but police found them implausible. The couple also cast suspicion on one another.
At the time the charges were filed in April, authorities had been unable to determine what exactly had happened and how Paisleigh was killed. The couple’s defense attorneys contend that prosecutors need to provide a bill of particulars that lays out the allegations in more detail.
“The state has alleged that both Mr. Williams and Ms. Aune committed the murder during the perpetration of child abuse, but does not specify who did what to the child,” Williams’ attorneys, Dylan Rosalez and Branden Vilos, wrote in a May filing.
For instance, they said the prosecution “must specify whether its allegations are that Mr. Williams inflicted the injury that caused the death or whether Ms. Aune caused the injuries and Mr. Williams committed neglect, i.e. did not provide adequate medical care for the child.”
At a preliminary hearing where prosecutors laid out their case, “there was very little evidence on the actual conduct that the state alleges violated the child abuse statute,” Rosalez and Vilos wrote. “A child dying from alleged blunt force trauma does not a murder charge make.”
In order to prepare for trial, they said their client “needs to know who the state is alleging caused the death and by what means.”
Aune’s court-appointed attorney, Travis Smith, made a similar demand for a bill of particulars last month.
“The state’s evidence at the preliminary hearing did not shed any light on who inflicted ‘physical injury’ as defined by Wyoming law, let alone that Carolyn Ashley Aune ‘perpetrated or attempted to perpetrate’ child abuse,” Smith wrote, adding, “the state has not put the defendant on any notice as to [who] the purported killer actually is.”
However, Deputy Park County Attorney Jack Hatfield has said the current charging documents are sufficient and that a bill of particulars is not necessary.
For example, while Williams wants to know what injuries he is alleged to have caused, Hatfield said the defendant “is on notice that any form of physical injury inflicted … would support culpability and any must be defended against.”
He referenced a quote from a 1995 Wyoming Supreme Court decision, in which the court held that “a bill of particulars is inappropriate for obtaining evidence, facts, theories and strategies.”
Rosalez and Vilos later panned Hatfield’s filing in a response, summarizing the state’s position as, “We don’t have to.” They again asked Judge Overfield to either order the prosecution to provide more detail about the allegations or to dismiss the case entirely; Williams’ attorneys have argued that the Park County Attorney’s Office must say who was the principal in the alleged murder and who was the accessory, or else they’ve improperly alleged two separate crimes in one count.
However, Hatfield called that argument “nothing more than defense counsel’s own novel theory of law.”
The contention “ignores the fact that for any crime, including child abuse, more than one defendant may be charged as a principal,” the prosecutor wrote.
Judge Overfield has not yet ruled on or set any hearings on the defense attorneys’ requests for a bill of particulars or to have the case dismissed. She also had not set a new trial date as of Monday.