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Jefferson man's trial in child abuse death focuses on medical evidence
Courtesy of Frederick News-Post
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Opening arguments in the trial of a man accused of abuse resulting in the death of his son indicate that autopsy results may be key to the case.

Ryan Wayne Huffer, 27, of Jefferson, is charged with first-degree child abuse resulting in death, first-degree child abuse resulting in serious injury and first-degree assault in the 2014 death of his 3-month-old son.

The death of Huffer's son, Logan William Luaces, was ruled a homicide by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Washington in late 2014. The manner of death was determined to be traumatic brain injury.

Huffer told investigators that he tripped on a blanket and fell while holding Logan, according to charging documents.

State's attorneys contended that the injuries outlined in the medical examiner's report could not have been inflicted in the kind of fall Huffer described, and there was no evidence of a prior injury or any infection.

Both prosecutors and the defense sought to cast doubts on the other side's medical witnesses in opening arguments.

Huffer is not a "monster," Assistant State's Attorney Lindell K. Angel said, but the night before Logan died, there was a "perfect storm" that led Huffer to act violently.

Logan was the result of a one-time tryst, she said, and he viewed the baby, who was sick and vomiting the night before he died, as a burden.

Huffer normally watched Logan at his girlfriend's house, Angel said, but they had been fighting, so he took the baby to stay for the weekend at his grandmotherís house.

Huffer's attorney, Jason W. Shoemaker, dismissed the argument that Huffer was angry about fatherhood. He called text messages that seem to show his client was unhappy about being a father "red herrings."

Shoemaker said that Huffer's grandmother was nearby doing crossword puzzles when prosecutors allege he assaulted Logan. The state would have to prove, he said, that Huffer could be so angry that he could hurt the baby with the woman in the next room.

He encouraged the jury to focus on the medical evidence, which will be presented as the five-day trial continues.

Logan's mother, Melissa Luaces, took the witness stand, and became tearful when she recounted how she arranged baptism and said her goodbyes to the baby in the hospital.

She testified that he was a "healthy baby," but that he did have vomiting spells.

When cross-examined by Shoemaker, she said she did not see any injuries on Logan.

She had talked to her pediatrician about the baby's vomiting and other gastrointestinal problems at his last visit, she said, but doctors never told her about any chronic conditions that might indicate that Logan's health was poor.

Huffer had not told her about the fall, she said, until the baby was transferred from Frederick Memorial Hospital to Children's National Hospital for more intensive emergency treatment.

Angel suggested to the jury that the fact that Huffer was not immediately forthcoming with that statement could indicate he was trying to come up with a cover-up story. However, Shoemaker said that considering all of the commotion surrounding the child's emergency care, focusing on inconsistencies in Huffer's story is misleading.
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