Friday, July 20, 2001

Man weighed 80, was near death, authorities testify in neglect case

Defense questions evidence gathering

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — While in the care of relatives in West Chester Township, a man with autism wasted away to 80 pounds — half what the 6-foot-tall man weighed in 1998 — and nearly died last fall, authorities say.

        Now Kevin Jessie Smith, 23, lives in a Butler County group home, has a job and weighs a healthy 180 pounds — and his brother and sister-in-law are facing felony charges.

Keith Smith
Keith Smith
        Keith Edmond Smith, 27, and his wife, Lakeah, 22, are charged with “failing to provide for a functionally impaired person,” resulting in serious physical harm to Kevin Smith.

        Each also was indicted in March on a count of theft involving Kevin Smith's Social Security checks, authorities said.

        The couple appeared in Butler County Common Pleas Court for an evidence hearing Thursday.

        For four hours, lawyers argued whether certain evidence should be allowed in the couple's trial, which is set for Sept. 17 before Judge H.J. Bressler.

        The evidence hearing will resume Tuesday and continue “until we finish, however long that may be,” Judge Bressler said.

        The couple's lawyers say their clients are not guilty and would never hurt Kevin Smith. The lawyers, Scott Blauvelt and Melynda Cook, also argued that some evidence was collected in violation of their clients' rights.

        But Kacy Eaves, a Butler County assistant prosecutor, said photographs and statements that police and paramedics obtained should be admissible because emergency crews gathered that evidence in the normal course of their duties Oct. 16.

        At around 6:25 that evening, Keith Smith had called 911 after his brother collapsed and was having trouble breathing.

        When police and paramedics arrived at the home in the 9500 block of Triangle Drive, they found Kevin Smith unresponsive on a hallway floor, near his bedroom, which was soiled with human waste.

        “(Medics) weren't sure at the time whether or not he would live,” West Chester Township Detective Dan Buschur testified Thursday.

        Kevin Smith was hospitalized for two weeks and was in rehabilitation from November until March.

        Mr. Blauvelt and Ms. Cook peppered police with questions about whether they advised the Smiths of their rights, whether officers obtained a search warrant, whether they asked permission to take photographs inside the house and whether they had the residents' consent to search the premises.

        Officers testified that they took none of those formal steps because the Smiths did not object and because, at the time, it was unclear whether the circumstances were criminal.


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