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Tunnelton woman found guilty of child abuse causing death of a toddler

KINGWOOD — A Preston County jury debated less than two hours Friday before convicting Kelly Marie Tusing of causing the death of a 13-month-old girl by child abuse.

Tusing, 24, of Tunnelton, faces 15 years to life in prison at her sentencing in January. Preston Circuit Judge Steve Shaffer set her post-conviction bond at $1 million.

She was indicted in March 2019 on the charge of death caused by a parent, guardian or custodian by abuse. The jury could have chosen the lesser charge of causing death by neglect, or not guilty.

Braylen Dawn Louk was 13 months old when her family removed life support Nov. 18, 2018, after eight days in the hospital.

During closing arguments Friday, Preston Assistant Prosecutor Megan Fields said doctors described Braylen’s injuries as “devastated brain” and “catastrophic brain injury.” They testified the child showed injuries classic in cases of abusive head trauma.

Fields argued the trauma was caused when Tusing shook or hit the baby, whom she was keeping in her home. Defense attorney Bill Frame said there was proof of a prior injury in Braylen’s brain, so that her fall from a bed, as Tusing described to police, had a more severe impact.

Frame said witnesses testified that Braylen’s parents, David Louk and Crystal Radovich, were fighting in the hours leading up to when they took Braylen to Tusing, “for Braylen’s safety.” The couple was splitting up, he said, after a relationship plagued by poverty, drug abuse and mistrust.

“The evidence says there’s more to it,” he said.

Fields held a yellow tape measure against her leg and asked jurors if they thought a fall of 30 inches could have caused such severe injuries?

There’s no question, even based on Tusing’s statements to state police, that she was with Braylen in the hours leading up to the injury — which would have immediately manifested symptoms — Fields said.

After she was taken by air ambulance to J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital, Braylen’s skull was opened to release the pressure of her swelling brain. Over subsequent days both the left and right side of her skull were removed.

Fields pointed to a table in the courtroom. The table, she said, had as much respo

nse to stimuli as Braylen when she was brought to the hospital. Doctors said her daughter would be “a vegetable,” Radovich testified.

A doctor testified that the common thread in severe shaken baby cases is frustration. Tusing was abused as a child, was in a domestic abuse situation and in a lower socioeconomic status, Fields said, with three children under 3 in her home.

None of those situations was new, Frame said.

“There is motherly love in that home,” he said of Tusing, who has two toddlers. “Her 1-year-old and her 2-year-old are well taken care of.”

And, “This is not some frustrated mother who is stuck,” the attorney said. She could have called someone to get Braylen if she wanted her to leave.

Fields said the call she wished Tusing had made was to 911 after Braylen was hurt. Instead, she called the baby’s grandmother.

Tusing cried throughout much of Friday’s hearing but not when the verdict was announced.

Fields, whose voice broke as she asked jurors to “give Braylen some peace,” dropped her face into her hands when the verdict was read. She turned to jurors, placed her palms together and gave them a silent “thank you” before they were dismissed.