TYLER (KYTX) - In a unanimous verdict, both grandparents are guilty of scalding their 2-year-old granddaughter in a bathtub of hot water. Sentencing is scheduled to begin at 9:00 Wednesday morning. The Walkers each face 5 to 99 years in prison.
TYLER (KYTX) -- Closing arguments in the case of the grandparents accused of intentionally scalding their two-year-old granddaughter's feet in a bathtub full of hot water began Tuesday morning in Smith County's 241st District Court.
Smith County Assistant District Attorney Jason Parrish went first, arguing that Shelley and Kenneth Walker are guilty.
"This is no accident," Parrish said as he pointed to photos of the little girl's scalded feet. "They charred her feet. Period."
Parrish went through a timeline showing the order in which various people in the case found out what he called numerous versions of how the little girl's feet were scalded, noting that Shelley Walker called a medical professional at the East Texas Medical Center who took her statement a liar.
"When you listen to those interviews, what happened comes out," Parrish said.
Parrish recounted how Shelley's initial story consistent of being in another part of the house folding laundry when the scalding happened and then being unable to open the door leading to the bathroom when she realized something was wrong. Then he talked about how the Walkers called a family member approximately twenty minutes before they ever called 911. Parrish said that indicated the injury happened well before the 911 call was made.
"Right there, that is sufficient evidence," Parrish said. "That's the evidence you need."
Parrish said Shelley's claim that the little girl turned the water on and scalded herself was a lie, based solely on the fact that a child would not hold her own feet in hot water for long enough to get scalded to the degree she was.
"We cannot get our lie figured out," Parrish said. "We cannot get our lie coordinated."
Parrish reminded the jury that as time went on, the Walkers seemed to modify their story to include the little girl's brother and say he was in there with her.
He also said it was clear from testimony that Shelley scrubbed the little girl's feet after the scalding occurred, indicating that the Walkers made a concerted effort not to get doctors involved. Testimony showed that the little girl was covered by Medicaid and that money should not have been an issue in that decision.
Referring to the Walker's call to their daughter-in-law Amanda Walker, Parrish said he thought it was ridiculous that they would call her instead of a legitimate medical professional.
"There's absolutely no way I would call Amanda Walker for medical advice," Parrish said.
Parrish then talked about a series of recorded interviews with Detectives from the Tyler Police Department. He said it was clear that both grandparents admitted to their own involvement in the scalding incident during those interviews.
In one of those interviews the detective asked Shelley how long it was between the point at which Kenneth walked back to the bathroom and the point at which she heard her granddaughter screaming. She replied that it was several minutes. Parrish argued that was a tacit admission of what happened.
"Sometimes when you lie, you accidentally tell the truth," Parrish said. "When you look at this case it's real simple. Kenneth was mad about the kids getting into the bathroom when they weren't supposed to and he did something about it."
Attorney Scott Ellis made the next argument, in defense of the Walkers.
He started by saying that Child Protective Services' decision to allow the Walkers to adopt the two children from their parents was based on an extensive study of them an their home. He said it proved they aren't bad parents.
Ellis said the state's attempts to paint Shelley Walker as a liar were base on a general lack of evidence.
"She admits that she lied," Ellis said. "But only to protect her grandson who is autistic and at the very least aggressive. It's tough to deal with having a child you love but causes problems."
Ellis said both of the walkers had been cooperative from the beginning, only to be "berated" for hours on end.
Ellis said it made sense that the Walkers called their daughter-in-law to get medical advice. He said their lack of education left them unable to figure out whether the injury was severe enough to be worth going to the hospital.
Lead Detective Michelle Brock's testimony came under fire for being "pathetic." Ellis said she lacked credibility for showing up to court unprepared, which he defined as being unable to cite the specific temperature of the water and giving what he called factually inaccurate testimony about the lack of splash marks in the bathroom.
He cited mescal evidence which showed that Kenneth's own physical impairments would not have allowed him to hold his granddaughter in the bathtub.
"He just couldn't to it," Ellis said. "At the end of the day it is physically impossible for my clients to do what they've done."
Ellis argued that the burns on the little girl's feet were not severe enough to risk her death and, therefore, did not actually qualify under the charge the Walkers are facing.
He challenged the notion that the Walkers had made tacit admissions of guilt.
"At the end of the day, that never happened," he said.
Attorney Cameron Castleberry made the next argument in defense of the Walkers.
He started by showing a picture of the little girl eating a Popsicle after the scalding incident. He said it was taken with her grandparents in the room and that it was noteworthy that she did not have a look of fear on her face.
Castleberry then turned to the science of how burns or scalding injuries happen. He brought up testimony saying that at a temperature of 135 degrees, ten to fifteen seconds of exposure would have been required to produce the injuries seen on the little girl's feet. He said that could be consistent with her walking, on her own, through the water as opposed to begin held in it by someone else.
Using a doll, Castelberry demonstrated difficulty in holding a two-year-old child's weight off the floor of a bathtub, saying testimony that the granddaughter's feet should have been less burned in the bottom had she been held against the floor of the bathtub cast doubt on the state's theories.
"I just don't think they held her down," he said. "I wish there was a camera in there that could prove their innocence. I wish I could tell you what happened. But I can't."
Castleberry said he worries that the jury will give a "just in case" verdict in which they find the Walkers guilty based on not wanting to take a chance that they would hurt another child, rather than knowing they hurt this one beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Parrish then resumed his argument in rebuttal to the defense.
"Boy Mr. Castleberry just stepped off in it," Parrish began.
He said Castelberry essentially admitted that his clients had done what was said, but that the case was mid-charged and they shouldn't be found guilty based on that fact alone.
Parrish argued that the defense beer asked an expert the direct question of whether the little girl's injury qualified as a "serious bodily injury." He said they side-stepped it even as the prosecution provided serious testimony that it was "serious bodily injury."
Responding to criticism of Detective Michelle Brock's testimony, Parrish said he was not in agreement with everything she said in court, but that her investigation was still key to laying a basis for the case.
"She did a lot of good things here," he said.
Parrish cast doubt on the defense's medical experts, noting that their doctor was not an expert in the field of child abuse and had not treated the little girl.
"Our guys treated her," he said. "They know what they're talking about."
Parrish said testimony had showed that someone had to hold the little girl's feet to produce such defined burn marks.
"If he had been moving around there would have been first degree burns and second degree burns," he said.
Doctors testified that the little girl had only second degree burns.
Closing arguments ended just before noon Tuesday and the jury began deliberations.