A Fort Bragg man on trial in the death of his infant foster daughter has offered law enforcement a variety of stories to explain the fatal injuries, none of which adequately explains the child's death, the prosecution said Thursday during the final day of testimony.
"How did those bruises happen?" Mendocino County Assistant District Attorney Paul Sequeira asked defendant Wilson "Josh" Lee Tubbs III, 39, as an autopsy photo of 5-month-old Emerald Herriot was displayed on a video screen in the court room.
The child's face and head were covered in bruises. Physicians have testified there were more than 49 bruises just on the child's face and head. She also had two skull fractures, massive bleeding in her brain and bruises on an arm and her chest.
Tubbs is charged with assault of a child under the age of 8, causing death. If convicted, he faces 25-years-to-life in prison.
His only current explanation for the injuries is a short fall the night of Dec. 1, the day before he took her to the emergency room because she'd stopped breathing.
He says the child was somehow knocked from a 21-inch bench, possibly by one of the family dogs. He said she cried but otherwise seemed all right. But the next day, she suddenly stopped breathing while in her swing. Tubbs said he yanked her from the swing and placed her on the hard floor to try to resuscitate the child, possibly hitting her head.
Physicians testifying during the trial said a fall like that could not have caused the fatal injuries. They also said a child with those injuries could not have been eating and acting as she normally did the following morning, as Tubbs claims.
The fall is just one of several scenarios Tubbs has offered to law enforcement and family, Sequeira said.
In December he told District Attorney investigators that he also "smacked" and shook the child because she wouldn't stop crying.
He now says that's not true.
"I told them what they wanted to hear," he said.
Sequeira questioned that contention.
"They weren't exactly waterboarding you," he said.
Tubbs said he offered the investigators the incriminating explanations so they wouldn't think his daughter, who was home at the time, had harmed the child.
"I knew they were going to find somebody to blame," he said.
In any case, slapping and shaking, while seriously damaging to infants, also would not have explained all of the child's injuries, a forensic pediatrician has testified.
Tubbs offered yet another explanation for the injuries to his wife during a phone call from jail several weeks after the incident but never reported it to authorities or his attorney, Public Defender Linda Thompson, according to Thompson.
In the phone call, Tubbs told Marte Tubbs he had just remembered that the dog had knocked the baby from the kitchen table five minutes after the first fall.
"It could either help me or hurt me," he said before asking for her advice.
Tubbs said the second fall never happened and he doesn't recall the phone conversation, likely because of all the medications he was taking in jail, including an anti-anxiety drug, an anti-depressant and a sleep aide.
"I was not in my right frame of mind," he said.
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