Officials: Murder suspect "calm" when emergency personnel arrived

BY ERIC MOORE | OCTOBER 26, 2011 7:20 AM

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Brian Dykstra calmly watched and kept his distance while medical workers tended to his 20-month-old adopted son.

That's according to Iowa City Fire Capt. Eric Nurnberg, who testified Tuesday as one of the first responders at Dykstra's home after a 911 call made in August 2005.

He said Dykstra's words as they entered the home were "please hurry," which, Nurnberg said, was "made almost as a conversational statement."

Dykstra, a former resident of Iowa City, was charged with second-degree murder after his adopted son died from head trauma that reportedly occurred under his care. Police records say a 911 call from Dykstra's residence was dialed but the caller hung up.

His son was transported by emergency vehicles to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, where he later died from injuries to his brain and respiratory system.

In addition to troubled breathing, officials also noted bruises in a variety of places on the child's body when they examined him at the Iowa City residence.

Charles Jennissen, a UI clinical associate professor of emergency medicine who treated the child, described "bluish-purple bruising" on both of the child's ears, which, he said, would likely have been caused by pinching or pulling.

Assistant County Attorney Anne Lahey asked whether the bruising could be self-inflicted.

"It's not consistent with what children do with their own ears," Jennissen said.

He testified he saw a large bruise formed by a collection of blood under the skin on the back of the child's head, in addition to bruises on the child's back, face, and thighs, and several "small pinpoint hemorrhages" near the buttocks and private areas.

Tina Davenport, a UIHC nurse practitioner, testified that she transferred the child from urgent care to the Intensive-Care Unit.

"His admission was a bit of a whirlwind on our end because he was so unstable … [he was] extremely sick," she said.

Upon closer examination, she testified, she noticed "extensive brain matter" coming out of the child's right ear, something she said she's "never ever experienced" before.

Jennifer Evans, a registered UIHC nurse at the time, also noticed a "stringy-like material" coming from the child's ears, and she had "several other professionals" examine it to determine if it was brain matter.

Defense attorney Leon Spies, who placed his hand on Dykstra's shoulder when referring to him, focused his questioning of both police officers and medical workers on his client's demeanor during the 911 response. He asked several witnesses whether they agreed with the statment "parents grieve in all sorts of ways."

Spies also asked Jennissen whether he was able to date any of the bruises found on the child.

"Not specifically, no," Jennissen said. "Some were more recent, probably within days."

Rebecca Lloyd, a paramedic at the Johnson County Ambulance Service, said Dykstra told her his son had fallen down the stairs a few days prior to the 911 call. Lloyd said she believed she was "seeing injuries that had occurred at various times."

Several other emergency responders and medical personnel called by the prosecution gave testimonies at Johnson County Courthouse Tuesday.

Assistant County Attorney Beth Beglin said the state will continue calling witnesses today.

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