CLEARFIELD – The criminal homicide trial got under way Monday in Clearfield County Court for an Allport woman who has been accused of causing the 2013 death of her then-boyfriend’s toddler daughter.
Jennifer Ann Medzie, 22, has been charged by Clearfield-based state police with criminal homicide, aggravated assault, F1, endangering the welfare of children, F3, simple assault, M1, and recklessly endangering another person, M2.
District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr. is prosecuting the case on behalf of the commonwealth. Medzie is being represented by defense attorney Robert S. Donaldson, Esquire. President Judge Fredric J. Ammerman is presiding over the trial.
Medzie has been accused of causing “abusive head trauma” to 2-year-old, Sophia Hoffman-Lauder, which resulted in her death Nov. 17, 2013 at the Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh.
Jurors heard testimony first from the girl’s father, Cody Lauder of Woodland. He said in August or September of 2013, Medzie moved in with him and later helped care for his daughter full-time while he worked.
On Nov. 15, 2013, he woke up around 4:30 a.m. to get ready for work. He looked in on Sophia, who was still sleeping in her pack ‘n play. “She was fine,” he testified. He then left for work.
He said that while he was working, he was notified something had happened to his daughter. He was told she was unresponsive, they had called 911 and he should go directly to the hospital.
He arrived at the Clearfield Penn Highlands Hospital, where he was advised that Sophia was going to be flown by medical helicopter to the Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh. He went to Pittsburgh with his mother and Medzie.
“Sophia was lying there – lifeless,” Cody Lauder told jurors. “She didn’t make it.” He also said that Medzie showed very little emotion at the hospital, and he later asked hospital staff to have her escorted out after hearing medical reports.
Shaw then directed his line of questioning to comments Medzie made the afternoon/evening of Nov. 14, 2013. Lauder said while the couple had friends over, they engaged in an argument. Medzie was upset because Sophia wouldn’t listen and cried all the time.
He said she took it all out on him and basically wanted him to choose between her and his daughter. He said Sophia was his “obvious answer” and he told Medzie “there’s the door.”
He said at this time, his daughter was with his step-mother and father. While with them, she became sick, was vomiting and he was called to take her to the hospital.
That evening he went to the DuBois Penn Highlands Hospital, and his daughter was later released under directions to monitor her flu-like symptoms.
He also testified that Sophia had been seen by doctors on other previous occasions due to her having dark “raccoon eyes” and for clumps of hair falling out.
Medzie’s friend, Krisandra Evans testified next, telling jurors Medzie called her at 7:45 a.m. Nov. 15, 2013 because Sophia had passed out while she was dressing her. Medzie told her it was an emergency and she needed her to come up.
When she got there, she said Medzie was on the phone texting and had her free hand on Sophia’s chest. She said the girl was “semi-breathing,” didn’t look normal and she knew something was wrong.
Evans directed Medzie to call 911 but Medzie told her that she’d tried already and no one picked up. She said that she (Evans) called the baby’s step-grandmother, Brandi Lauder, because they needed an adult to help.
Evans said once Brandi Lauder arrived, she went down the road to flag down the ambulance. She said after Sophia was taken to the hospital, she and Medzie went to meet them there.
On their way, she asked Medzie what had happened, and Medzie said that she didn’t know.
Evans later provided state police with a Facebook message she’d previously received from Medzie in October of 2013. Medzie wrote that she was “sick and tired” of watching the girl, and she was going to end up hurting Sophia or herself.
Brandi Lauder said Medzie began living with her step-son, Cody, in Woodland in September of 2013. She didn’t initially take care of Sophia but eventually began to full-time.
On Nov. 15, 2013, she was getting her daughter ready for school when Medzie called her. Medzie told her Sophia had passed out while she was trying to dress her.
Brandi Lauder asked Medzie if the girl was sleeping and breathing and she said yes. Because Sophia had been sick the day before, she told her that she needed the rest, and she would come down to check on her in about an hour.
Approximately 30 minutes later, she received another call from Evans. She was told the baby wouldn’t wake up. She could hear Evans screaming for Medzie to pick up the girl, but she wouldn’t.
She told Evans that Sophia was a light sleeper and she’d wake up if she was picked up. When Evans picked up the girl, she didn’t respond, and Brandi Lauder said that she immediately ran down to help.
She said within two seconds of getting there, she knew something was wrong, and the girl was in medical distress. She said Sophia was pale, had bulging veins and her breathing was sporadic.
Brandi Lauder said Evans was on the phone with 911 and gave her the phone. She was trying to provide the dispatcher with six weeks’ worth of medical problems while also counting the girl’s breaths.
She said emergency personnel got there, took over and were quick to take Sophia to the hospital. She said Medzie didn’t say anything about what had happened at the hospital.
Shaw then directed his line of questioning to Nov. 14, 2013. Brandi Lauder said she’d picked up Sophia at Cody Lauder’s residence, and her husband later took her to pick up a mount at the taxidermist.
While there, she said the girl became sick and threw up in the car. She continued to throw up when they got home, and they called to have her father take her to the hospital.
She said the girl had really declined – mentally, emotionally and physically – over the six-week period that Medzie had cared for her. She had bruises, raccoon circles around her eyes, hair falling out in clumps and she was throwing up.
She said they’d taken her to the doctor and she was to be seen by a specialist in Pittsburgh. However, she said Cody Lauder never got a chance to make the appointment.
The girl’s grandfather, Raymond Lauder, testified that he’d taken her with him and his two other children to the taxidermist. While he was inside, his daughter beeped the horn because Sophia had thrown up.
He said when they got home, she continued to throw up. He said they called his son to come get her and take her to the hospital right away.
On Nov. 15, 2013, Raymond Lauder told jurors that he was asked to fill in for his son at the family business because Sophia was being rushed to the hospital by ambulance.
He said he was on his way to Pittsburgh when his son called him. He gave him medical terminology from the doctors, and he was unable to understand it. He said his son told him, “That [expletive] killed my kid.”
When he got to the Children’s Hospital, Raymond Lauder said his granddaughter was hooked to a machine and lifeless.
Tammy Foster of Clearfield Emergency Medical Services was dispatched to a report of an unresponsive 2-year-old at 8:49 a.m. Nov. 15, 2013.
When emergency personnel arrived, she said the girl did have a pulse and was breathing about 12 times per minute. She said because it was a “critical” situation, it was a “load and go.”
She said Clearfield Penn Highlands isn’t equipped for pediatric trauma patients, and Sophia was flown from the hospital to Pittsburgh.
The commonwealth’s last two witnesses Monday were Retired State Police Cpl. Mary Jane McGinnis and Cpl. Kim Ronan, both former criminal investigators at the Clearfield barracks.
Both McGinnis and Ronan assisted with the investigation and participated in interviews with Medzie. Both said Medzie claimed she didn’t know what had happened to Sophia, and it was a “normal” day.
The investigators said Medzie told them that she was getting the girl dressed when she just went limp in her arms. She repeatedly said that Sophia was fine until then.
Both McGinnis and Ronan sensed Medzie and Cody Lauder had a “rocky” relationship, and that Medzie was frustrated with being the primary caretaker.
Ronan said during an interview she was a part of, Medzie admitted to shaking Sophia twice in October but denied that it ever happened in November. She also admitted to getting upset and trying to harm herself for doing it.
According to Ronan, it was evident in Medzie’s interviews that she’d interacted and communicated with the girl the morning of Nov. 15, 2013. She felt that Medzie was “untruthful” and “hiding” something because Sophia was immediately symptomatic.
Ronan testified that when Medzie was charged in the case Aug. 25, 2016, she made her first “excuse.”
Medzie told her that the girl had been slow-moving from being sick, she was changing her and Sophia was partially under the table. When she picked her up, the girl struck her head on the coffee table, and it immediately caused her to go limp.
Ronan concluded her testimony by saying although she’s not a medical doctor, she believed Sophia’s vomiting and other medical issues were all related to the head trauma caused by Medzie.
The commonwealth will continue to present its case when Medzie’s trial resumes at 9 a.m. Tuesday in Courtroom No. 1.