Edward Montour death penalty trial: Homicide ruling changed in infant death
In an unprecedented move, the El Paso County Coroner's Office has amended the death certificate in the 1997 death of a twelve-week-old infant, changing the cause of death from "homicide" to "undetermined" -- dealing yet another blow to prosecution efforts to seek the death penalty for the infant's father, Edward Montour Jr., for the murder of a corrections officer at the Limon prison in 2002. And the man who sent Montour to prison for life for killing his daughter now says that new evidence has convinced him that the death could have been accidental.
Edward Montour Jr.
There's little doubt surrounding the crime for which Montour is now facing trial: his fatal attack on corrections officer Eric Autobee twelve years ago. He pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, but the Colorado Supreme Court threw out his death sentence in 2007 because it hadn't been imposed by a jury. The prosecution has since been mired in procedural delays, internal conflicts, and a highly public battle with Autobee's father, Bob, who opposes the death penalty and wants to address the jury in the case about why he doesn't think his son's killer should be executed.
Prosecutors hoped to use the fact that Montour was already serving life for a prior homicide as an aggravating factor in his current trial. But earlier this month, Montour's defense team filed a motion that he was wrongfully convicted of beating his daughter Taylor to death and shouldn't have been in prison in the first place.
At the time of his daughter's fatal injuries, Montour insisted that he'd accidentally dropped Taylor when he stood up from a rocking chair, and that her head had struck the chair and then the floor. The El Paso County Coroner's Office took the position that the injuries were far too severe to have occurred in a short fall and were consistent with "having been thrown off a ten-story building." Among other injuries, the infant appeared to have suffered broken ribs, a broken femur and five separate points of impact on her head.
A family photo of Eric Autobee.
But after obtaining access to medical records and a review of X-rays, a battery of pathologists and pediatric radiologists consulted by the defense have all agreed that the baby's injuries were consistent with an accidental death. There was evidence of a metabolic bone disorder, such as rickets, which made her bones extremely brittle; the multiple cranial impact sites are actually the result of an internal bleed and swelling from one impact where she hit her head; the broken ribs and femur could well have come from CPR efforts and an attempt to insert an IV by medical personnel. While the opinions fall short of absolutely exonerating Montour, they were sufficient to persuade Leon Kelly, the chief deputy medical examiner in El Paso County, to reverse the finding of a former coroner and amend the death certificate.
Continue for more about the latest developments in the Edward Montour case, including the most recent court filing.