NORMAN — A defense attorney for a Midwest City man on trial for first-degree murder in the drowning of a 2-year-old girl told a Cleveland County jury Wednesday the child's death was a “tragic accident.”
A second tragedy occurred when Donald Reeser, 31, was charged with killing Allie Croom, 2, attorney Elton Jenkins said.
Prosecutor Christy Miller said Reeser is responsible for the girl's death because he dunked her repeatedly in Lake Stanley Draper while on a family outing June 18, 2009.
Allie was terrified of water and screamed in protest when Reeser pulled her into the lake by her legs and dunked her, Miller said.
Jenkins and Miller presented their views on the case in opening statements before District Judge Tracy Schumacher in what is the second trial for Reeser.
A jury that heard the case in December deliberated about 14 hours over two days without reaching a verdict. A mistrial was declared.
Miller told jurors Reeser's son, Brady, who was 5 at the time, will testify that his father was angry with Allie when he pulled her into the water.
Brady is the sole witness to what happened because Allie's mother and 3-year-old sister had left the water to walk to the car, Miller said.
The mother will testify that when she returned, Reeser was carrying Allie to the car because something was “terribly wrong” with her, Miller said.
When the child began vomiting water and blood, the mother tried to resuscitate her in the car while Reeser drove them to Midwest City Regional Hospital, the prosecutor said.
The child was already dead, but doctors worked on her for about an hour trying to bring her back to life, Miller said.
Jenkins said witnesses will tell jurors that at one point during the outing Allie was playing with her mother when she fell facedown in the water. Jenkins said the child appeared to be OK after that but may have swallowed enough water to contribute to her death.
Reeser later dunked the child under water “to get her used to the water,” Jenkins said, but did not use force or hold her.
“What happened was a tragic accident. By all accounts, everyone was having a good time that day until the tragedy occurred,” Jenkins said.
Following opening statements, Oklahoma City police officers testified about being called to the hospital where Allie had been pronounced dead.
Donald Reeser “seemed kind of nonchalant about it. He showed no emotion whatsoever,” officer Lisa McCoy said.
Police officer James Kennedy said Reeser told him that he didn't notice anything wrong with Allie until they had driven away from the lake.
When he noticed in the rearview mirror that the child was beginning to vomit, he ordered the mother to do CPR while he drove to the hospital, Kennedy said Reeser told him.