FORT VALLEY — A 24-year-old Reynolds woman is expected to go on trial this week in Peach County Superior Court for the murder of her 6-month-old niece.
Lashunika Aquinde Harp was indicted on one count of felony murder, said John Geiger, an assistant district attorney for the Macon Judicial District that includes Peach County.
“She’s accused of murdering the child by blunt force trauma,” Geiger said. He declined to elaborate on the facts of the case.
Jury selection is expected today, with opening arguments possible this afternoon, Geiger said. The trial is expected to take four days, he said. Judge Phillip Brown is presiding.
William Phillips, a public defense attorney representing Harp, declined to comment. However, a letter filed in the Peach County court records from a forensic pathologist sheds some light on Harp’s defense.
“There are no medical findings diagnostic, or even suggestive, of intentionally inflicted injury,” wrote Dr. Peter J. Stephens, a forensic pathologist, based in N.C., in a letter last month to Phillips.
In the letter, Stephens said he reviewed the autopsy report, autopsy photographs, microscopic slides, police communication records and photographs of the playground, including a “steel tube climbing structure,” at the apartment complex where the child lived.
Harp was arrested and charged with murder April 25, 2008, in the death Ryauna Mathis of Fort Valley, who died earlier that day at The Children’s Hospital at The Medical Center of Central Georgia. The infant, who suffered seizure-like symptoms, was rushed by ambulance about 3 p.m. April 23, 2008, to the Peach Regional Medical Center in Fort Valley and later to The Children’s Hospital, police said.
Medical personnel contacted police because the baby’s injuries to the head were suspicious and they suspected child abuse, police said.
Harp was visiting Teron Mathis, her sister and the child’s mother, at her Fort Valley apartment at Indian Oaks Apartments, 1103 E. Church Street.
Mathis stepped outside for “a matter of minutes” to talk to her mom, who pulled up in her car, and left the baby inside with Harp, police said. When Mathis came back in, she immediately knew something was wrong with the baby and called 911, police said.
The GBI and the state Division of Family and Children Services assisted with the investigation.
To contact Becky Purser, call 256-9559.