RALEIGH — The prosecution presented its case Wednesday against a traveling preacher charged with child abuse.
Prosecutors say Howard Hunichen had an almost God-like power over Lisa and Kevin Fortner, and maybe that is why they allowed him to be the primary caretaker for their three children, including their infant son, Zachary. They say it is a decision that may have led to the infant's permanent brain damage.
Evidence presented in court Tuesday included a videotape showing Hunichen interacting with the child. In the courtroom, Hunichen sat with his eyes closed as the videotapes were played.
"He had been working with Zachary together with his parents to get him to crawl, stand and sit," said Detective Randy Miller of theRaleigh Police Department. "And then he said, 'Zachary is my little buddy. The last two weeks I have spent a lot of time with Zachary.'"
Police say Hunichen described himself as the spiritual advisor to the family and the primary caretaker for the children.
"He also stated that he did have to discipline Zachary also. And he did that by patting him on the butt. He said he did that to encourage him to crawl. He was lazy and needed to be motivated," said Miller.
Hunichen says Zachary fell off the bed during a diaper change and hit his head on the floor, but prosecutors say the severe injuries are inconsistent with a simple fall.
"He was in shock," said Dr. Michael Cinnamon, a emergency room physician atWakeMed. "He had no clinical evidence of life other than taking a deep breath every once and a while."
The doctor also said that Zachary had fractures in his skull, pelvis and ribs, and bruises all over his body.
One specific injury to Zachary's head was shown on the videotape. On the tape, Hunichen is heard saying Zachary got the sore from a carpet burn.
Raleigh's major crimes task force began investigating this situation because medical personnel and police said something was not right when they responded to Hunichen's apartment on April 23. They called it eerie and unnatural because the parents did not seem upset about their son's serious injuries.
Lisa and Kevin Fortner are expected to testify against Hunichen this week.