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Jury finds Jefferson man guilty in child-abuse death
Courtesy of Frederick News-Post
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A jury found a Jefferson man guilty Monday in the child-abuse death of his son.

After roughly an hour and a half of deliberation, it found Ryan Wayne Huffer, 27, guilty of first- and second-degree child abuse, as well as second-degree assault. It found him not guilty of a first-degree assault charge.

Huffer was charged after Logan William Luaces died from a traumatic brain injury and a medical examiner ruled the death a nonaccidental homicide.

Logan died in 2014 after being alone in Huffer's care overnight. Emergency medical personnel responded to Huffer's grandmother's house on Feb. 16, 2014, after he called 911 to report the baby wasn't breathing and was pale.

Logan was taken to Frederick Memorial Hospital, then to Children's National Medical Center in Washington, where he died.

Emotions ran high in the courtroom as the jury read its verdict. Logan's mother, Melissa Luaces, sobbed as the jury read its finding for each charge. Huffer wiped away tears later as he walked out of the courtroom.

Huffer's sentencing date is set for Feb. 24, 2016.

First-degree child abuse resulting in death carries a maximum sentence of 40 years, according to court guidelines, while second-degree assault carries a 10-year maximum sentence.

Prosecutors argued at the six-day trial that although no one witnessed Huffer harming the baby, medical evidence shows that Logan must have died from some trauma inflicted by Huffer.

Medical scans and Logan's autopsy showed fresh bleeding in his brain and behind his eyes. The state called several medical experts including the Washington chief medical examiner. They each said the type of injuries Logan had are consistent with intentional child abuse in a healthy baby.

The defense called a doctor who was prepared to testify that there were other possible causes for the bleeding, but objections kept him from sharing any hypothetical explanations with the jury.

Huffer's defense attorney argued that doctors did not have the complete picture before determining Logan's death was intentional.

In closing arguments, he said they were not aware of pediatric records showing that Logan had a large head. The head measurements, he said, could have indicated other potential causes of the baby's death.

Assistant State's Attorney Tammy Leache countered that the size of the child's head was irrelevant in light of the fact that the examining doctors found nothing abnormal about Logan apart from head trauma.

Huffer's changing account of what happened to Logan before he called 911 loomed large in the trial.

He initially told police and first responders that he noticed the baby was having trouble breathing when he laid him down in the morning.

Later in the day, when Logan was taken to the hospital, Huffer told police and doctors that he had tripped on a blanket and fallen with the baby in his arms.

Dr. Ashley Siems, who treated Logan at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, said the changing story led her to believe the trauma was not an accident.

Huffer's defense argued that the stress of Logan's medical crisis and police questioning led him to forget things and remember them later.

Prosecutors considered the changing story evidence that Huffer had done something to Logan and was trying to protect himself from getting into trouble.
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