Twenty different head injuries and a serious burn on Stanley Karl Thomas III’s arm tell part of the story before his death from a catastrophic skull fracture Nov. 18, 2015, a prosecutor told jurors Monday during opening statements of Torace Weaver’s murder trial.
But Weaver’s attorney said that his client — after initially panicking and lying to police — admitted he was playing “Superman” with Thomas. That’s when the back of his 2-year-old foster son’s head hit a wall in the basement of the church where Weaver was a pastor.
Weaver, 38, was indicted on counts of murder, reckless homicide, involuntary manslaughter, felonious assault, endangering children and obstructing official business.
Weaver’s wife, Shureka, 40, was indicted on one count of endangering children, a third-degree felony. Both of their trials began Monday in the courtroom of Montgomery County Common Pleas Court Judge Mary Katherine Huffman.
“You’re going to hear how this healthy, 2-year-old child came under the care of these defendants, Torace and Shureka Weaver, as a foster child,” Montgomery assistant prosecutor Kelly Madzey said. “And how 56 days later, he was dead. He was bruised. He was burned. His skull was fractured, and he was dead.”
Dr. Susan Allen from the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office testified about the 20 individual injuries to Stanley’s head, including the injury that caused his death.
“That final blow is only the final page in the story of the last 56 days of Stanley’s life,” Madzey said, later adding, “Both of these defendants did fail Stanley.”
Allen also said Stanley had a severe burn through the top layer of skin on his arm plus other injuries to his buttocks and back. Allen said the boy’s arm looked like there had been blisters that popped.
Madzey said the Weavers said they didn’t know how Stanley got the burn and said they never took him to a doctor for the burn. Jurors saw autopsy photos of head and scalp injuries and the burn.
Madzey said evidence will show the couple hid Stanley’s burn from a Children Services caseworker and that Shureka Weaver is guilty of “a failure to act.”
Defense attorney Anthony VanNoy said Torace Weaver was playing with Thomas, spinning him around in “the Superman game” when his head hit a corner of a wall.
“He was afraid,” VanNoy said of his client “He tells the police, ‘I heard a bump and the boy fell.’ But he came to himself and he told the police the truth.”
VanNoy said it was a game they played regularly, but that Torace lost his balance.
“Torace will let you know that it was his fault,” VanNoy said. “It was not murder.”
Eight days before Stanley’s death, Weaver called Dayton police to report his biological son had run away again. A police report said, “Weaver could not provide an answer as to why he waited until (Nov. 10)” to report the boy missing.
Defending Shureka Weaver, defense attorney Marshall Lachman told jurors that the Weavers did put ointment on and wrapped Stanley’s arm in the week before the boy’s death.
“This is not about emotion. It’s not about sympathy,” Lachman said. “It’s about applying the elements of the charge and holding the state to its burden prove each and every element of that charge beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The trial is scheduled to resume Tuesday and go through at least Wednesday.