FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) - Shocking new details emerge in the trial of Latisha Lawson - a Fort Wayne mother accused of killing her two-year-old son while trying to rid him of demons.
The first to take the stand in the Latisha Lawson trial was a Fort Wayne police detective who interviewed Lawson in December 2010. The most compelling part of his testimony came when prosecutors admitted that taped interview into evidence.
On the tape played for jurors, Lawson can be heard talking about her 10-year-old daughter and two-year-old son. She told authorities that she took her daughter out of school for two years to home school her.
When asked about little Jeziah King, her son, Lawson said, "I have some complications with him."
Her demeanor in the tape was calm and polite, and throughout the trail Lawson has continued to exude that attitude. She did, however, break down and cry during the interview as she discussed her son's death.
She told authorities that in 2009 Jeziah was "demon possessed" and "left this Earth." Lawson said the toddler's tantrums were a main reason for that belief, and added that he would say names and asks questions that a typical two-year-old would not be able to do.
In detail, Lawson discussed pouring a vinegar and oil down Jeziah's throat more than once while he struggled and continued to spit out the concoction.
Lawson and her roommate at the time, Natasha Hawkins (who is also being charged in the death), held the little boy down. Lawson says she held her hand over his mouth and he eventually stopped breathing.
Her testimony also revealed that Hawkins had three children who witnessed the entire event along with her ten-year-old daughter. All of those children were also given the mixture, she says.
No one called EMS or tried to get help. Testimony indicates that Lawson initially believed her son would be resurrected, but after two or three days she said she realized that wasn't going to happen.
She told officers where to find the tote holding her son's dead body.
Further testimony from the detective in this case revealed that family members first contacted law enforcement about a missing child, but further investigation revealed something much more serious had taken place.
At the time of his interview with Lawson, Jeziah King had been dead for more than a year.
Next, Pastor Elisha Harris took the stand. Lawson and her daughter came to him for shelter after moving out of Hawkin's apartment. He told her that they could stay in a home he used to help out people in need at 1301 Wabash Rd.
Harris said when he heard police were looking for Lawson, he feared that she could be in danger and told law enforcement where to find her.
Lawson's ten year old daughter was next to take the stand. Lawson cried upon seeing her daughter enter the courtroom, and throughout her testimony would look over and nod or smile at her daughter.
The young girl talked about her brother. She said he was funny, fun to play with, and often enjoyed playing with her toys.
She spoke about the day her brother died. She said she and Hawkin's three children were told to sit on the floor in front of the couch. A towel or sheet, she says, was placed in front of them by one of the adults. They watched as the two female roommates sat on opposite ends of the couch and held down the crying toddler and forcing the oil and vinegar mixture into his mouth.
The girl told attorneys that the women kept saying, "The blood of Jesus."
She says that she and the other kids were forced to drink the mixture as well, but threw it up on the towel or sheet.
At some point, she testified, her brother stopped breathing and the adults told the other children that he had died. She said the women moved her brother's body into Natasha's bedroom and laid it out on the bed. She testified that the body remained there, in nothing but a diaper, for a month or two.
Lawson's daughter said her mother and Hawkins would sleep with the boy's dead body on the bed - one lying on either side. After some time, the body was moved into a tote and then put into the closet. She said, "they would open up the closet and it would have this odor to it."
She said when Jeziah was alive he used to get in trouble for throwing tantrums. She said he would get "whoopins" by their mother and father. She too would get in trouble, and when her mother moved in with Hawkins, she would get "whoopins" with several objects. Many of them, she said, would bleed and leave marks that are still visible today.
When asked how that made her feel, the 10-year-old told attorneys it sometimes made her feel angry, but at other times she felt nothing because she deserved it by being disrespectful or disobedient.
Lawson's daughter also told jurors that her brother's body remained in the tote as they moved from location to location after leaving Hawkin's apartment.
She also wasn't allowed to talk about what happened to her brother, she said. She said her mother told her not to tell, because the police would send her to jail. "I did feel shocked a little, probably because I knew soon somebody was going to find out," she said in court.
Attorneys asked the girl about seeing family during the year following her brother's death. She said Lawson and the kids would hide in the back room and stayed quiet when family would come knock on the doors or windows.
She said at first she didn't think her brother was demon possessed, but began to believe it after her mother told her that he was.
Two officers from the Fort Wayne Police Department's Crime Scene Unit took the stand. They both testified about going to Hawkin's apartment on Hobson Road first, and finding an empty blanket in the closet.
When the unit went into Lawson's temporary home on Wabash, they discovered the tote with Jeziah's body in it. They said he had been wrapped in a blanket and put in the grey tote with other articles of clothing.
One officer also said that it appeared the tote, found in what was being used as Lawson's bedroom, was being used as an end table. It was covered with books, cups, and trash. There were also crayon marks on the outside of the tote. The only visible name, they said, was "Tisha."
A forensic pathologist also took the stand Wednesday. Autopsy pictures were shown to the jury, and the pathologist testified that the toddler was partially mummified and still wearing nothing but a diaper.
According to testimony, his neck was fractured and he died from asphyxiation. There were bruises, he said, on the boy's neck. Jurors heard that Jeziah struggled in his last moments, eventually losing consciousness before his death.
Indiana's NewsCenter will continue to keep you posted on the latest details in this ongoing trial. A verdict could come as early as Friday.
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