THE CASE: Brian’s Arrest

The autopsy was conducted by Dr. James Weiner, the state’s Medical Examiner (ME). According to the ME’s report and his testimony, Dr. Weiner had determined that Christopher had died as a result of multiple, blunt force trauma to the head resulting in a six inch skull fracture and a subdural hemorrhage. However, he found no retinal hemorrhaging, and at trial testified that he was unsure if the fracture was caused by one blow, a series of blows, or a blow to a different part of the head. Dr. Weiner did not, however, examine the brain himself. The ME sent it to Dr. William C. Schoene, a neuropathologist for examination. Most importantly, in his opinion Dr. Weiner stated:

  1. The head injury had to have been inflicted at or about the time of death;
  2. That it could not have been accidental;
  3. That it would have rendered Christopher unconscious or comatose immediately; and
  4. That the injury was not survivable

As a result, what drove the police investigation was the M.E.’s determination that the injuries must have been inflicted just prior to death. (We now know that that initial opinion was wrong.) See New Diagnoses Thus, investigators concluded that since only Brian and Ms. Sneed were with Christopher at the time of his death, one of them had to have inflicted the fatal injury.

On January 24, two days after Christopher’s death, Brian was called and asked if he would come back to the Westport Police Station for more questions. Ms. Sneed was also called in for further questioning. Detective Roussel and Trooper King questioned Brian explaining that Christopher had several bruises and marks on his body, some old and some new. Further, it was explained that the ME determined that Christopher died from blunt force trauma to his head and that the injuries were inflicted just before he died. Detectives then told Brian that they believed that he may have had something to do with Christopher’s injuries and that if he did not change his statement he would be charged with murdering Christopher. Brian refused to change his story and asked to speak to an attorney. Questioning then stopped. According to police reports, Detective Lewis and Sergeant Butler again questioned Ms. Sneed. She was told that it was believed that she had something to do with her son’s death and that she was being given a chance to change her statement. She was again asked if she was aware of any injuries on Christopher. She explained that she was only aware of a bruise on his shoulder and forehead and a broken collarbone from when Christopher fell down the stairs at her mother’s house and was taken to the ER.

Sgt. Butler testified that Ms. Sneed was composed and very matter of fact. Then, when she was shown autopsy photos and told that they believed she had something to do with her son’s death, she then became hysterical. Ms. Sneed was told that Christopher’s head injury was inflicted at or about the time of death and only her and Brian was with Christopher. Detective Lewis testified that after being shown photos of bruises believed to be several days old, and being told that her story did not make sense Ms. Sneed began changing her statement to specifications led to by the detectives. She stated that it must have been Brian because it was not her. Questioning continued and Ms. Sneed was shown several autopsy photos. Sgt. Butler testified that he kept showing her photos and telling her that her story did not make sense. Each time she was forced to look at an autopsy photo, Ms. Sneed changed her statement putting herself further and further from her son, ultimately placing Brian alone with him. Police reports reflect five or six different versions of events given by Ms. Sneed. Her final documented version was that Brian came out of the bathroom, went downstairs and was alone in the basement with the children for about five to eight minutes. Ms. Sneed went on to claim that she heard four to five loud bangs that she described as someone “punching or kicking the wall.” She then heard Tarissa yelling for her. Ms. Sneed then stated that she went downstairs and found Brian on his hands and knees leaning over Christopher. Ms. Sneed finally stated that it was not her that hurt Christopher so it must have been Brian, changing her story once again claiming that it was not her that bathed and changed Christopher, it was Brian. She stated that she was unaware of any injuries on her son. Police concluded the questioning of Ms. Sneed. Police immediately placed Brian under arrest charging him with first degree murder. Brian has been in custody ever since. It should be noted: Ms. Sneed changed her versions of events from that night at least two more times at a subsequent hearing and at trial for a total of seven or eight different stories.

From the beginning, the case made against Brian was entirely circumstantial. There was no physical evidence or even circumstantial evidence that specifically pointed to Brian as inflicting a single injury on Christopher. The prosecution built their case against Brian on Ms. Sneed’s cooperation and the opinions of the state’s medical experts; opinions that were never tested or challenged.

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