Whether the death of 10-week-old Ava Getty was the result of murder or an accident will be up to a jury seated on Wednesday in Douglas County District Court.
Ava’s father, Trent Getty, 24, is standing trial accused of first degree murder in the death of his infant daughter.
Getty wiped tears from his eyes as defense attorney Maria Pence described to the jury how he had cared for the girl during the first months of her life after she was born on Oct. 28, 2014.
During opening arguments, Pence said Ava’s death was the result of a tragic accident.
“He tossed her gently into the air three or four times and she slipped. He grabbed for her and caught her leg just before she hit her head on the floor. Ava’s death was a tragedy, but it wasn’t murder.”
Prosecutor Erik Levin painted a far more sinister picture for the jury.
He said the evidence will prove that Getty severely injured Ava, causing a skull fracture that caused her brain to swell, eventually killing her.
Levin said Getty provided investigators with 17 different stories about what happened on Jan. 7, 2015.
“We’ll never know the precise details of what happened that night,” Levin said.
Pence told jurors that Getty was sober on Jan. 6. He worked that morning and met a woman he’d been chatting with on an online dating service.
Getty picked Ava up from her grandmother’s at around 7 p.m. and by 7:30 p.m. was at home eating dinner with Ava sitting next to them as they watched television.
Pence said Ava had colic, so Getty put her in her swing and when she still wouldn’t settle down, gave her a bottle.
According to Pence, it was Getty’s intention to take Ava out of the swing and burp her before putting her down for the night.
But Getty fell asleep on the couch, waking up when he heard Ava crying because she’d fallen out of the swing.
She said he’d tried to calm her down by shaking her gently and then by tossing her into the air when he dropped her.
Levin pointed out that Getty never called 911, and packed a bag of clothes before taking Ava to Carson Valley Medical Center, where he spent 2.5 minutes before leaving again.
When his car ran out of gas in Indian Hills, he called the woman he’d met the day before and asked her to come get him. They drove back to Carson Valley Medical Center where Getty was told Ava had been flown to Renown Regional Medical Center.
Levin said Getty planned to get away by having the woman drive him to Susanville and then to Sacramento, where he bought a Greyhound bus ticket to Medford, Ore. He waited in the Sacramento bus station for 12 hours before being arrested while trying to board the bus.
Pence said that Getty packed a day’s worth of clothes because he didn’t know how long or where he’d be.
Once he learned that Ava’s condition was serious, he fled because he believed he would be blamed for her death, Pence said.
“If Trent Getty didn’t have tattoos on his face, then chances are none of us would be here,” she said.
Attorneys took two days to seat a jury of 10 women and four men. Two of the jurors are alternates, but they won’t be determined until after the case is presented.
District Judge Tod Young told the jury he expects the case to be complete by June 10.