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Published: Tuesday, 12/7/2004

Mother's trial begins in death of 3-year-old

A Toledo woman who went on trial yesterday for the death of her 3-year-old son in January told investigators he was not breathing when she found him floating faceup in the bathtub.

But in his opening statement to a jury in Lucas County Common Pleas Court, assistant prosecutor Jeff Lingo laid the groundwork to prove that Hassani Berry did not drown.

The boy's mother, Angela Berry, 32, is charged with murder and involuntary manslaughter and two counts of child endangering for the incident that led to his death as well as for alleged abuse that occurred two days earlier.

Paramedics found Hassani's naked body early Jan. 17 in the hallway near the front door of Ms. Berry's apartment at 1520 Elm St. They were responding to a 911 call about the child not breathing. Hassani was taken to St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead about an hour later.

Ms. Berry has said she found Hassani floating faceup in the bathtub and took him out of the tub.

Mr. Lingo told the jury they will hear from witnesses who will testify that the cause of death wasn't from drowning, and that he was exposed to extremely cold temperatures before his death.

However, Myron Duhart, an attorney for the defendant, said the prosecutor's case is theoretical and they could not prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.

A nurse who was among the hospital staff who treated Hassani in the emergency room told the jury that warm fluids were pumped into the boy's body as soon as he arrived.

Jennifer Butler, who charted the medications and procedures used, said the boy's temperature was 66 degrees, more than 30 degrees below the normal body temperature of 98.6. She said the body temperature -- the lowest she has ever recorded - was taken at 2:15 a.m., about 10 minutes after the boy arrived in the hospital.

Also testifying was Randy Roslin, a Toledo firefighter and paramedic who found the boy in the home. Mr. Roslin told the jury that Hassani was "extremely cold to the touch" when he scooped him off the floor in his arms.

The trial, which is being heard by Judge Ronald Bowman, is expected to resume today.



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