Accident or abuse: Man charged in child's death receives reduced bail
An Anchorage man accused in the death of his significant other's child is set to receive a reduction in bail.
Richard Aaron Vickery, 32, faces charges including a count of second-degree murder in the June 2018 death of 6-year-old Weston Noe, who was reported choking at a Taku Drive home.
The charges against Vickery were announced last week, after an almost year-long investigation into the boy's death.
Wallace Tetlow, Vickery’s defense attorney, asked that Vickery's current $27,500 cash bail be reduced to a $10,000 cash performance bail, noting that Vickery has been living in Alaska for more than 20 years, has no prior arrests or convictions, knew about the investigation without fleeing for months and willingly turned himself in once he had been indicted.
According to a bail memorandum prepared by Tetlow, Vickery had been watching Noe. The boy choked on the quesadilla he was eating for lunch and became unresponsive. Vickery tried to get the food out, the memo states, then called Noe’s mother who asked him to call 911. Vickery subsequently performed CPR, and Noe was taken to the hospital; he died two days later.
Tetlow and Vickery were initially led to believe the state would not pursue a criminal case, according to the memo:
"Undersigned was in communication with former District Attorney Richard Allen and former Assistant District Attorney Andrew Klugman regarding the charging decision in this case. In November 2018, Mr. Allen and Mr. Klugman advised undersigned charges would not be filed due to inconsistent medical expert opinions regarding cause of death."
In a bail memorandum prepared by Deputy District Attorney Brittany Dunlop, the state relayed a different version of events.
The document states Noe's mother called APD regarding a domestic violence incident at the home on June 11, the day before Noe died. No arrests were made, but prosecutors say the woman had threatened to take the children and leave Vickery.
The following day, Vickery was watching his two biological children, ages 9 and 11, as well as Noe, while the 6-year-old's mother was at work. The older children ate their lunch and went outside to play, while Noe sat in the kitchen for an hour and a half and did not finish his lunch. He was then moved to his room, for another hour and a half, and Vickery's ex-wife came and picked up the man's biological children.
According to the bail memo, Vickery called Noe's mother to express frustration and ask where a timer was that they had used in the past to set a limit on mealtime.
"According to VICKERY, [although] he was checking on [Noe] regularly, at one point he went into his room and found him slumped over. Before calling 911, VICKERY first got a pair of thick gardening type gloves from the kitchen and attempted a "finger sweep" of [Noe's] mouth. He also retrieved two EPI pens, prescribed to another child and administered them to [Noe]. He then called [Noe's] mother who instructed him to do the Heimlich and call 911. At that point, VICKERY called 911."
Prosecutors have disagreed sharply with Vickery’s bail request, pointing out that two doctors told the grand jury in the case that Noe had significant injuries.
That list included:
- Significant liver damage and elevated liver enzymes, indicative of blunt force trauma to the abdomen.
- Bruising to Noe's lower back that developed at the hospital once blood pressure was raised and his heart was pumping again that was consistent with abusive trauma.
- Bruising in other areas that is not consistent with normal childhood injuries, including ares on the throat and upper inner thigh.
- Shearing type brain injuries and injuries to the brain stem, which were inconsistent with typical injuries expected from brain death due to asphyxiation and consistent with non-accidental trauma.
- Hemorrhaging in all four quadrants of both eyes, also possibly indicative of abusive trauma rather than associated with choking or life-saving measures.
"We have multiple doctors looking at this in an entire view saying this child was beaten to death, or if not to death, that was a major contributing factor," said assistant district attorney Lawrence Monsma in court on Wednesday.
The state's theory is that Vickery "engaged in a significant assault" on Noe as punishment for not eating, then panicked and tried to resuscitate Noe on his own before calling 911.
"Medical opinions are medical opinions," said Tetlow, "there’s gonna be different opinions in this case."
Noe's mother was present in the courtroom on Wednesday and supported Vickery's release on bail. She told the judge her other, younger child is living with her, along with Vickery's two biological children.
When asked by the judge where Vickery's ex-wife is, Noe's mother said, "she's dealing with her own issues. She signed a delegation of powers to me so I could have the children full-time."
Judge Catherine Easter said she would reduce the bail, but Vickery must be on GPS electronic monitoring and have no unsupervised contact with children, including his own.
He must now pay $11,000 in cash, but the new order won't go into effect until another bail hearing is held on Thursday, once the state has had time to verify the location and custody of all the children.
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