Doctors testify 17-month-old would have never recovered from severe head injury

Injury caused by shaking or slamming

CEDAR RAPIDS - Toddler Kamryn Schlitter only lived three and a half hours after life support was withdrawn March 28, 2010.

Kamryn, 17-months-old, had “gasping” breathing after the ventilator was removed, Dr. Sameer Kamath with the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics testified Tuesday. Kamryn died from inflicted head trauma.

Three doctors testified that Kamryn had little brain activity and she would have never recovered from the non-accidental trauma that was caused by a shaking or slamming, and one doctor said it may have been a combination of both.

This is the second week in the Zyriah Schlitter first-degree murder trial in Linn County District Court. He is also charged with child endangerment in the death of his daughter Kamryn. If convicted on both charges, he faces life in prison without parole.

The prosecution continues its case 9 a.m. Wednesday with more medical testimony regarding Kamryn’s severe head injuries. The defense will start its case next week.

Schlitter’s ex-girlfriend, Amy Parmer, 29, is also charged with first-degree murder and child endangerment in the case. Her trial is set Jan. 14.

Gazette Reporter Trish Mehaffey continues her live coverage from the courtroom.

Kamath, who was her managing care doctor, said Kamryn couldn’t breathe on her own and she would have never walked or talked again. Her family’s only options were to continue life support or let her die naturally, he said.

Dr. Gregory Albert, neurosurgeon at the University of Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, Ark., and formerly with University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, said Kamryn had a sub dural hematoma on the left side of her head. There were two surgeries performed to relieve the massive brain swelling and pressure but they didn’t improve her condition.

“Her chances for survival were low,” Albert said. “She was put into a drug induced coma to help with the pressure. It was a last ditch effort.”

Albert said she also had injury to the central part of the right side of the brain due to lack of oxygen that was secondary to the left side damage, and injury to her cerebellum, which controls motor skills and balance.

Dr. Susannah Longmuir, pediatric ophthalmologist with University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, testified about Kamryn’s multiple retinal hemorrhages in both eyes.

Longmuir identified photos of the retinal injuries. The photos showed folds in the retinal, which indicates severe non-accidental trauma and was caused by a “crushing or shaking” injury. Kamryn suffered more significant trauma because there was hemorrhaging in more than one layer of the retinal, she said.

Longmuir said the optic nerve was covered by a large hemorrhage in the right eye and there were multiple hemorrhages throughout the left eye.

Four doctors provided expert opinions that both the prosecution and defense are interested in regarding timing of the injury. The prosecution wants to prove Kamryn’s injuries could have been inflicted by Schlitter, who left about 5 p.m. March 21, 2010 and not at home when the 911 call was made after 7 p.m. The defense wants to narrow the time to show that Parmer was the one responsible for the injury that led to Kamryn’s death.

Dr. Michael D’Alessandro, a pediatric radiologist with University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, said the head trauma likely occurred within hours and days but he would “lean to hours old” of when Kamryn was brought in. His opinion is based on the amount of blood that was in Kamryn’s skull and the amount of brain swelling.

Dr. Gary Baumbach, a neuro pathologist with University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, said the injury occurred within 12 hours based on changes within the neurons of the brain tissue. That could put the incident around noon March 21, 2010.

The only non-medical testimony of the day came from Heather Myers, who worked with Parmer in 2011 at the Eastern Iowa Airport restaurant. Myers said she gave Parmer a ride home from work one night in 2011 and Parmer became emotional and said something about DHS and children, and then said “I might have killed a kid.”

Myers admitted she didn’t know what she was talking about at the time and didn’t ask her any questions.

Another time, Parmer mentioned her apartment was being searched for make-up. But again, Myers didn’t ask for an explanation.

Daycare employees testified last week that they noticed bruising on Kamryn’s face and make-up covering some of the bruises.

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