Despite the defense identifying issues with the cause and timeframe for Powell resident Jason Getzfreid allegedly committing first-degree murder, his charge will stand and has been bound over to Park County District Court.
Getzfreid is accused of causing the death of his 4-month-old daughter in late August.
“Child abuse cases like these are often circumstantial and rarely have witnesses,” said Park County Prosecuting Attorney Larry Eichele during a preliminary hearing on Friday. “What we do have is that Getzfreid had exclusive control for the young lady.
“There was an event that happened, with that event it caused the child’s death.”
It was determined by medical staff the child suffered “non-accidental trauma” and a rapid acceleration and deceleration movement to their brain. There were no external injuries.
Park County Circuit Court Judge Bruce Waters sided with the prosecution, but added there are “a lot of loose ends” it must tie up.
“Although it’s not beyond a reasonable doubt, the court does find probable cause to exist,” he said.
Getzfreid’s public defender attorney Tim Blatt pointed out the state is basing a significant portion of its evidence on a single handwritten note made by a Powell Valley Healthcare nurse, describing hand motions Getzfreid allegedly made after the baby was taken to the hospital. According to the nurse, he said, “Sometimes you just get frustrated you know and you try not to” and then raised his hands to demonstrate holding an object, and then shook his hands.
“There was no other discussion about other possible causes besides Getzfreid’s motions,” Blatt said.
Dr. Tagrid Ruiz-Maldonado of the Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City found the child’s injuries consistent with some form of shaking that could only be attributed to a car accident or “complex stair fall” if occurring under accidental pretenses. The only explanation Getzfreid gave to authorities was that she fell from a couch 15-16 inches off the ground.
Blatt attempted to cast doubt on the medical analysis used in the case by mentioning this aspect, as the medical input was presented as a key piece tying Getzfreid to the crime.
“Almost double that length is a fall down the stairs,” Blatt said. “Someone falling twice that height, that could create the same amount of injury?”
When Getzfreid picked her up he said she went limp.
By the time the baby arrived in Salt Lake she was unresponsive and needed assistance breathing, according to a social worker at the hospital.
Blatt peppered Park County Sheriff’s Deputy Jed Ehlers with questions pertaining to the medical analysis and the timing for physical signs of abuse to show up, but Ehlers had few answers. Ehlers defended the first degree murder charge against Getzfreid because he was the sole provider of the child at the time she fell into critical condition, and he also cited the opinions given by multiple medical experts. Ehlers said no conversations took place with the experts about the injuries coming from past abuse.
“Because of the info we have we can’t point to other reasons,” he said.
Blatt also criticized the state for not considering the possibility the child had been abused prior to the 40-minute window Getzfreid was left alone with her before he brought her to the hospital in Powell.
“The symptoms might have started when he took care of the child,” he said.
Sheriff Scott Steward did say the mother of the child was interviewed as part of the case.
Ehlers said medical personnel told him the effects of an injury Getzfreid is believed to have committed would have had a “fairly quick effect.”
Ehlers said he still has not received a pathology report from the hospital.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, a brain bleed can take days to weeks before symptoms develop. X-rays and CT scans showed there being old and new blood in the baby’s brain. Blatt honed in on this point to expand the timeframe and number of suspects the state has considered for the case.
“That would expand the timeframe to be investigated?” Blatt questioned Ehlers, to which he agreed.
Getzfreid is still in custody with a $1 million cash only bond. His bond was not discussed at Friday’s hearing.