The case of a Gunter woman on trial for the death of her infant back in 2017 continued in the 397th Wednesday with testimony from doctors and law enforcement officials. Jurors in the case got to see a video which showed the emotional state of Tatriauna Roberts, now 25, back on June 12, 2017 when she woke to find her infant son, Amori Long, dead on a blow up mattress beside her.
She told the police and emergency medical personnel who answered her call for help that the baby was fine when she put him down for a nap after feeding him earlier in the morning. The first emergency responder through the door said he found the baby to be cold to the touch.
A Dallas County Medical Examiner testified on the first day of the trial that Amori, who died before reaching his second month birthday, died of starvation and dehydration, and the manner of the death was homicide.
She said the baby’s sunken eyes, visible ribs and spinal column and tenting skin were signs that any parent should have been able to recognize as starvation especially a mother who had already had several children.
Roberts has pleaded not guilty to injury to a child with serious bodily injury charge she faces in the case. Her attorney Garland Cardwell’s questioning of prosecution witnesses has seen him draw attention to mentions of postpartum depression in his client’s medical records. He also stressed the fact that she had suffered the loss of Amori’s twin just weeks before his death.
The last thing that prosecutors put on the record Wednesday was a text message in which Roberts said, “It’s too much stress. I don’t want to be a single mother of 5, it’s already hard with 4. I don’t think I can keep this baby.”
Jurors in the case won’t be hearing from Amori’s father, Deondre Long who was subpoenaed by the state. He testified early Wednesday morning that he would refuse to testify in the case regardless of which side was asking questions.
Video of the day of Amori’s death
Jurors got to see him and snippets of Roberts’ emotional state on the day that Amori died when prosecutor Bi Hunt called Lt. Danny Jones of the Gunter Police Department to the stand. His body camera captured the mattress where emergency personnel found the baby and Roberts’ responses to their questions about his condition.
While emergency responders worked on her infant son, Roberts walked in and out of the room and held a conversation on the phone with her cousin. At times, she appeared to be crying, but at other times, she answered questions in what seemed to be a clear and concise manner. She could be heard saying, “I can’t lose another baby. I can’t do that,” as she paramedics worked on her child outside in the ambulance.
The baby’s father gave officials a fake name when they asked him who he was and he refused to allow them to take his photo even though he was being filmed as he spoke to them. Law enforcement officers testified that they later found out he had warrants in Missouri and theorized that was the reason he gave them a false name. Deondre Long seemed to be trying to keep the couple’s other children out of the way on the video. On the piece of the tape shown in court, he didn’t cry or check on the infant who had been taken out of the house to an ambulance for care. The ambulance took Amori to Wilson N. Jones Medical Center were he was pronounced dead.
The video also showed that Roberts had baby formula and pre-made bottles in her pantry that she could have given to Amori. She told investigators that she had started supplementing with formula the day before.
Medical Examiner’s questions
Prosecutors played a tape of a conversation that Gunter Police Lt. Danny Jones’ conversation with Roberts that took place weeks after Amori’s death. He asked her questions that he got from the Dallas County Medical Examiner’s Office as they tried to complete their investigation of Amori’s death. Roberts told Jones that Amori was fine the last time that she fed him. When asked if she was pumping breast milk to feed him or if he was latching on, she said he was latching on but she was pumping as well.
She said, “He would get full when I put him on the breast.”
Prosecutors have pointed out that Roberts had to supplement the breast milk she fed her older children with formula so she should have known that she would have to do so with Amori too.
Gunter Police Chief Shawn Johnson testified that he thought Amori Long was a baby doll when he first saw him on the day he died. He said he questioned the mother again about her child’s death some time after the incident and he asked her if she had killed the child.
He said she stated that she did not. She said she loves all of her children. He then agreed that charges weren’t brought against Roberts until March of 2018 even though Amori died in April of 2017. He said at first the GPD had decided to charge Roberts with capital murder but the actual charges were up to the District Attorney’s Office.
Dr. Ashley Braum, the OBGYN who delivered Amori and his deceased twin and Roberts’ last infant, testified that Roberts didn’t get medical attention for her pregnancy with Amori until her third trimester and that she didn’t seem to know, at that time, that she was carrying twins. Braum said when she saw Roberts again after Amori’s death, she diagnosed Roberts with postpartum depression and prescribed her Xanax to help her sleep. Braum said Roberts indicated that she had thought about suicide but didn’t have a plan.
The prosecution and defense are expected to rest their cases Thursday.
Jerrie Whiteley is the Criminal Justice Editor for the Herald Democrat. She can be reached at JWhiteley@HeraldDemocrat.com.