Trial begins for soldier accused in death of infant daughter
COLORADO SPRINGS — Harmone’e Elam appeared fine the day before she died, prosecutors say.
The first sign that the infant might be sick came two hours after dinner on Dec. 14, 2011 — a moment when her father was alone with the girl, prosecutors say.
“Harmone’e threw up something crazy,” Pfc. Roderick Elam Jr. later told his wife, prosecutors said.
Whether Elam killed his 2-month-old daughter that night or did his best to treat her ailments dominated opening arguments Tuesday in the Fort Carson soldier’s trial.
“This is not a case of SIDS,” said Christopher Sutton, a deputy district attorney. “This is not a case of mild injuries” that happened over time.
“He thought she had a cold,” countered Lara Nafziger, a public defender.
Harmone’e Elam was pronounced dead on Dec. 15, 2011 after she stopped breathing in her house in south Colorado Springs.
Prosecutors initially charged Elam — with the 4th Infantry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team — with child abuse resulting in death. Ten months later, they also charged the girls’ mother, Lakeria Shazarea Grant, with the same crime amid allegations she didn’t act upon her daughter’s medical needs.
Harmone’e was the 10th child to die in a suspected child abuse case in 2011 across El Paso County and Fort Carson. Three of the deaths resulted in charges against soldiers at the post.
Elam offered police several explanations for his daughter’s injuries, including that Harmone’e hit her head on a soap dish earlier that night, and that he squeezed her chest and did CPR before putting her to bed, Sutton said.
A nine-minute 9-1-1 tape offered insight into Harmone’e’s last moments. In a monotone voice that hardly wavered, Grant talked to an operator and received step-by-step instruction on how to perform CPR on Harmone’e.
She didn’t mention the child wasn’t breathing until a couple minutes into the call, Sutton said. Roderick’s voice never aired on the tape.
“The defendant is CPR trained,” Sutton said. “The defendant is the one who actually knows how to do this.”
But Nafziger said Elam spent the night treating Harmone’e for a slew of unusual symptoms that began before he got home from work at Fort Carson, when Harmone’e was in her mother’s care.
At one point, Elam called his mother to ask her about Harmone’e’s odd breathing patterns. She recommended Elam take the girl to the hospital. He instead gave her a bath and wrapped her in towels — the best way he thought to treat her, Nafziger said.
“Mr. Elam was a young father, an inexperienced father,” Nafziger said.
She said Elam felt such remorse for Harmone’e’s death that he began wrongly blaming himself.
“He admitted to something he didn’t do,” Nafziger said.
Testimony is expected to resume Thursday.