By Jameson Cook (For The Voice)
A judge endorsed felony murder and child abuse charges against a New Haven woman in her 2-year-old stepdaughter’s death but dismissed a sexual assault charge despite a severe wound to the child’s genital area.
Renee King, 28, this afternoon was ordered by Judge William Hackel III of 42-II District Court in New Baltimore to appear May 16 in Macomb County Circuit Court in Mount Clemens, following a two-day preliminary examination.
King is accused in the Nov. 20 death of Lily Furneaux-Wolfenbarger, who died from at least three blunt-force trauma blows to the head.
“It’s wonderful we got through another step in the process but to not get all three charges hurts,” said Lynette Furneaux of Lapeer, Lily’s grandmother. “All three things were done to her.”
The judge said evidence showed that Lily’s head injuries “were inconsistent with … someone falling,” enough to warrant the felony murder and child abuse charges. But testimony failed to show probable cause that a severe laceration to Lily’s vaginal area could have been done by “this defendant.”
On Wednesday, county Medical Examiner Dr. Daniel Spitz testified that Lily suffered a wound so deep that it punctured a wall between the anus and vagina.
But New Haven Police Officer Derek Reed, who was the first person on the scene, testified Thursday he did not notice any wound to Lily’s groin area when he arrived and saw King “kneeling” over Lily’s nude body.
King’s attorney, Michael Dennis, argued that prosecutors failed to connect his client to the vaginal injury.
“There has to be some evidence linking my client,” he said. “They’re trying to throw a bunch of mud on the wall and home something sticks.”
After the hearing, he suggested Lily could have suffered the injury in the ambulance or Mount Clemens Regional Medical Center, where she was taken.
“Conceivably, this could’ve happened in the hospital or it could have happened in the ambulance,” he said.
“If someone (medical personnel) commits an error, they’re not going to put it in a report. If someone commits sexual penetration, they’re not going to put it in a report.”
Assistant Macomb prosecutor Therese Tobin said after the hearing she will appeal the dismissal of sexual assault charge to the circuit court, noting that Spitz indicated the vaginal wound had to occur within two hours of Lily’s death. Spitz indicated Lily would have immediately experience symptoms to the head injuries.
“The medical examiner’s testimony was clear as to the timing of both the head and vaginal injuries,” she said.
Dennis said although his client admitted to dropping Lily in the bathroom while trying to clean her and a second time when she tried to pick her, she maintains that it was accidental. She says she slipped due to a bad back, he said.