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Tunnelton woman on trial in 2018 death of toddler

KINGWOOD — The case against a Tunnelton woman accused of causing the death of a toddler left in her care will hinge on medical evidence, both sides said in opening arguments Tuesday in Preston Circuit Court.

Kelly Marie Tusing, 24, was indicted in March 2019 on a charge of death caused by a parent, guardian or custodian, which is the same as first-degree murder, if convicted.

Braylen Dawn Louk was 13 months old when her family removed life support Nov. 18, 2018.

Preston Assistant Prosecutor Megan Fields told the jury Tusing caused the brain injury that led to Braylen’s death. Defense attorney Bill Frame said the girl had a prior brain injury and, when she fell off a bed while Tusing stepped away to help her child, it led to her death.

He said the family dynamic leading up to the injury — Braylen’s parents were not married or employed, lived in an old mobile home without water or electricity, they had been arguing and drug abuse was a factor — contributed to the incident.

Fields said those issues are irrelevant to what happened to Braylen.

Braylen’s parents, David Louk and Crystal Radovich, had left their daughter with Tusing for a stretch of days, the attorneys said.

On Nov. 10, 2018, Tusing struck or shook Braylen, causing what doctors called “a devastated brain,” Fields told the jury.

Defense attorney Frame said the doctor who managed Braylen’s care the first six days she was in the hospital was removed from the case after police found he was pointing to a prior brain injury as a possible cause of Braylen’s condition.

Fields said a pediatric critical care physician who cared for Braylen and the state’s chief medical examiner would testify that Brylen would have become immediately symptomatic when the injury occurred, and that it couldn’t have been caused by falling from a bed. Tusing appeared to be crying as Frame talked about her hearing a “thump” when Braylen fell from the bed.

Fields said Tusing’s own statements to police will show she was alone with Braylen in the hours leading up to the injury. The toddler never regained consciousness from the time she was attended to by EMS — who were not called by Tusing — Fields said.

She told the jury some of the testimony will be difficult to listen to but asked them to pay close attention.

The trial is expected to last five to six days. Public attendance at the trial is limited because of space in the courtroom. Because of COVID-19, jurors are seated six feet apart on the benches in half the courtroom. The other side of the courtroom is for the public.

Seats are sterilized during breaks in the trial, and attorneys, witnesses and court staff are separated by clear Plexiglas dividers. Everyone must wear a mask over their mouth and nose except when testifying, when they may drop it so the jury can hear them clearly.