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September 19, 2019

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UNLV physics prof: Falling tank could have caused fatal injury to 16-month-old girl

Testimony to continue today in trial of Henderson man accused of killing girlfriend’s baby daughter

Cody Geddings in Court

Accused of killing his girlfriend's 16-month-old daughter, Cody Geddings appears in Henderson Justice Court in on Monday, April 12, 2010. Launch slideshow »

A UNLV physics professor was expected to continue to demonstrate today to a Clark County jury how a large metal oxygen tank could have fallen on and fatally injured 16-month-old Addison Weast in March 2010 in a Henderson back yard.

The testimony of the professor, John Farley, lasted late into the afternoon Tuesday in the child abuse murder trial of Cody Geddings, 26, who is accused of killing the baby daughter of his girlfriend, Jaime Higgons, on March 31, 2010. Testimony is expected to resume at 1:30 p.m.

Geddings been charged with murder and child abuse with substantial bodily harm in the girl's death.

Prosecutors have been trying to show, bringing several doctors to the stand, that the baby’s injuries were caused by being shaken violently or slammed into something. They said retinal damage suffered by the baby points to “shaken baby syndrome.”

However, a physician from the coroner’s office said that a blow to the head, such as the accident in the backyard claimed by the defendant, could have been the cause.

And the defense attorneys, public defenders Shana Bachman and Norman Reed, have been trying to convince the jury that it was an accident — that the toddler accidently knocked over a 145-pound steel oxygen tank used in welding that Geddings had temporarily placed on a wobbly chair in his back yard.

Complicating the trial has been Geddings’ admission that he told police he tried to cover up the accident and initially told both the girl’s mother and police that Addison fell out of her playpen onto the floor and then went into seizures.

Jurors watched a video Tuesday afternoon that showed Geddings sticking to that story for an hour and 27 minutes as police questioned him until he finally gave his second story — that the accident happened in the back yard. He told authorities that he “freaked out” and tried to cover up the accident because he faced a different child abuse sentencing and didn’t think anyone would believe him.

However, during testimony on Tuesday, one of the detectives who interviewed him said they checked in the back yard, saw the oxygen tank and the chair that Geddings said it fell from and only took photos of it as it was strapped onto a dolly.

In the video shown of his interview by officers, Geddings told them that after the girl’s mother took her to the hospital, he strapped the heavy tank back onto its dolly — but told them they would find DNA from the girl on the tank.

Under cross examination, the detective said they didn’t check the tank for Addison’s DNA, didn’t check the ground to see if there was an indentation left by the fall or didn’t try to do a re-enactment. The detective indicated they didn’t believe the second story, because Geddings had already told them he made up the first story.

During testimony on Tuesday, Farley, the physics professor, said said he did 11 re-enactments at the scene with public defenders Norman Reed and Shana Bachman present in which they placed the heavy tank on a chair and let it fall onto the head of a crash dummy that was the same size as the girl. The crash dummy had been outfitted with equipment that would measure the velocity of the impact, so that it could be rated on a scale used by the auto industry for testing injuries in crashes.

Farley testified that the results showed that in five of the 11 trials, the crash dummy’s head received major injuries.

Under cross examination, Farley admitted to Chief Deputy District Attorney Michael Staudaher that they did not use the same kind of swivel chair in the recreation that was in the backyard. Staudaher also tried to get him to lift the metal cylinder, but Farley could not place it on a chair in the courtroom and said that Reed, the public defender, handled that part of the experiment.

Staudaher then requested that all of the photos and videos of the recreation experiments be shown to the jury. They are expected to see them this afternoon.

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