Kyiemani Brewer’s life was a short and violent one.
The 17-month-old died in 2013 from a massive blow or blows to the abdomen that dislodged one kidney, lacerated her liver, and left blood pooling throughout her body, a medical expert said Thursday.
But her autopsy revealed a series of significant injuries that had occurred in the days or several weeks before: a rib that was broken and then re-broken; bruises, cuts and scars left around her face and in her mouth; a skull fractures that ran down the back of her head to her spine.
Family members said at the time of her death that Kyiemani had brittle bones. Prosecutors say she was beaten to death.
On Thursday, Antonio Cathey, 24, went on trial for first-degree murder in connection with the toddler’s death.
In 2013, Cathey was the boyfriend of Kyiemani’s mother, Jade Butler. Both have been charged in connection with the killing.
Butler is scheduled to testify against Cathey. If convicted, he faces life in prison without parole.
During a pretrial debate over what autopsy photographs the jury will be allowed to see, Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner Michael Sullivan said Kyiemani died from a severe blow – perhaps several – from a fist or a foot.
Under questioning from defense attorney Norman Butler and Assistant District Attorney Clayton Jones, Sullivan dispassionately led the attorneys through a series of graphic autopsy photographs, pointing out the profound injuries to Kyiemani as he went.
With a child so small, he said, “a single, violent penetrating blow” could have sent trauma shooting through Kyiemani’s body, he said. Yet Sullivan could not say whether she had been hit once or several times in her abdomen.
The damage to her skull and ribs occurred anywhere from several days to several weeks before, he said.
All of his testimony took place without the 12-member jury who were scheduled to be empaneled later this morning by Superior Court Judge Carla Archie.
Cathey walked into court in a blue shirt and a black-and-brown striped tie.
At the time of his and Butler’s arrests, Cathey’s mother, Garmarie Bennett said Kyiemani suffered from a bone and muscle disorder that caused her to bruise easily.
“I think she died from that illness,” Bennett told WBTV four years ago. “My son did the best for her ... just like that was his own blood daughter.”