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Medical examiner: Garner toddler had signs of abuse

Posted August 16, 2010

— A medical examiner testified Monday that a deceased Garner toddler's injuries were indicative of child abuse and not a fall from the couch, as his mother told police.

Sherita Nicole McNeil, of Garner, is on trial in the death of her 19-month-old son, DeVarion Gross. She is charged with first-degree murder and concealing the death. DeVarion was found decomposed in his mother's closet in November 2008.

Prosecutors have argued that McNeil killed him, doused him in bleach and wrapped him in a garbage bag about six weeks earlier.

McNeil told police that her son fell and hit his head on a coffee table.

Defense attorneys have said that McNeil didn't call 911 for fear of going to jail and of the boy's father, Eric Chambers.

Medical examiner Dr. Maryanne Gaffney-Kraft said Monday that DeVarion had three rib fractures, all at various stages of healing. Two of the fractures appeared to have occurred one to three months prior to the child's death. The third rib fracture happened one to two weeks before his death.

"It is very difficult to give a child a rib fracture," she said.

Gaffney-Kraft said because children are flexible, rib fractures don't occur in normal rough-housing activities. The injuries would have to come from a high-velocity incident, like a car crash. She said DeVarion's injuries were consistent with child abuse.

Medical examiner Dr. Maryanne Gaffney-Kraft Medical examiner testifies in Garner toddler's death

Gaffney-Kraft added that the rib fractures would have made it too painful for DeVarion to jump on the couch.

“He would have been crying, he would have been fussy. Anything the child did would have been painful,” she said.

If he had fallen off the couch, she said, he would have sustained a short-fall injury.

"It is extremely rare for a child to die from a fall of less than three-feet," Gaffney-Kraft said.

Because Gross' remains were so decomposed, the medical examiner could not pinpoint an exact cause of death.

But she testified that based on the fractures, and the fact that the child did not have a skull injury, McNeil's story doesn't make sense, and that the death was not an accident.

"The cause of death was undetermined homicidal violence," Gaffney-Kraft said.

Relatives and caregivers of the boy have testified that they suspected his mother of abuse and neglect.

The prosecution rested its case on Monday.


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  • lmoore Aug 17, 2010


  • jhilfiker2001 Aug 17, 2010

    that boy never had a mother, there is no way you can call that animal a mother.

  • jonesmcis1112 Aug 17, 2010

    I get tears in my eyes when i look at him and read about all that he endured in his short lived life....dont know him or his mother but i do know this is one of the saddest stories I have ever heard in my life...may God have mercy on her soul........

  • countess Aug 16, 2010

    This story is so pitiful.. I look at that little boy in the picture and he looks to be in pain at the time it was taken, he could not even smile as most children would do. I hope they throw the book at the mother and put her a cell where the other inmates can "deal" with her...

  • markay1023 Aug 16, 2010

    This poor child never had a chance!Can you imagine from the ME's Report how this child had been beaten all along?It is not the Grandmother's fault,but I would be a terror to deal with if it was my Daughter that this child had beat him all the time.She would never step foot on my doorstep,trust me.I could forgive for my God's word,but never enable her to get away with this cruelty.I hope she rots in some prison for years,but nowadays they have 3 squares and a clean bunk,more than she had in her real life probably!All except all the men,maybe?Oh,I only wish their pain,Oh God,could be the same as what this DARLING little boy went thru!Guilty,give her LWOP!!

  • NoObamaCare Aug 16, 2010

    Hopefully some of her cell mates will hear about this story and be so disgusted by it that they break 3 of her ribs!

  • Wake1 Aug 16, 2010

    How could you hate & hurt something so tiny???

  • scarletindurham Aug 16, 2010

    death penalty... or death by jailhouse justice. The latter is preferred.

  • deannaandgrace2 Aug 16, 2010

    What a sad tragedy. It's hard to imagine that no one could save this little boy. Bless his soul.

  • demo7691 Aug 16, 2010

    Trial Lawyers are the problem of this country. They represent the guilty and twist the rules trying to get them off. I dont know how they sleep at night except in a mattress made of money which obviously drives most of them.