Ex-wife defends Dykstra in murder case


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Lisa DeWaard defended ex-husband Brian Dykstra, saying that he had been "distraught" following the hospitalization of their son.

"Brian was a mess. He had been crying … the second I saw him he just gave me this big hug," DeWaard said. "Brian almost never cries … it had to be serious for Brian to cry."

Dykstra, a former Iowa City resident, was apparently taking care of their child on Aug. 13, 2005, when he said his 20-month-old adopted son vomited and passed out before dying of brain injuries at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

Dykstra was charged with second-degree murder following the incident.

And though medical officials previously testified Dykstra appeared emotionless the day of the alleged incident, family and friends defended him during his trial on Monday.

DeWaard said her former husband called her crying on the day their son was taken to the hospital.
Tom Lacina, a first responder with the Iowa City Fire Department, testified Oct. 25 that Dykstra appeared emotionless and said he saw "no tears" and "no crying."

DeWaard told the jury she had never seen him mistreat their son in any way or display anger causing him to strike or kill their "special little boy."

The child's mother said she noticed changes in her son after he fell down a few stairs on Oct. 10. Three days later, she said, Dykstra called to tell her about their son's unusual symptoms.

DeWaard wiped tears from her eyes at the last photo of her son taken the day before he was hospitalized. In the photo, she pointed to where her son appeared to have bruises on his face and ears.

DeWaard said her son would "have spurts where he was his normal, energetic self" amid periods of irregularities such as having "more bowel movements than normal."

DeWaard's mother, Susan DeWaard, who sometimes helped take care of the child, testified that Dykstra's relationship with his son was very positive.

"Brian adored him. [The child ] really liked his father," she said. "Brian would play baseball, and he'd always want [his son] to come to his games with him."

Two members of the church Dykstra and Lisa DeWaard attended who are also doctors at the UIHC but not directly involved in the case each defended Dykstra in their testimonies.

Though several witnesses for the prosecution said the injuries could not have been caused by the fall, an expert called by the defense said the cause of death could not be determined.

When pediatric forensic pathologist Janis Ophoven was asked by defense attorney Leon Spies whether she believed the circumstances of the child's fall could provide enough force for his injuries, she replied, "Absolutely," adding, "if the time of the impact was very very short … then the likelihood of injury is much higher."

Ophoven also said marks found around the child's private areas were "not inflicted injury."

When challenged by Assistant County Attorney Anne Lahey during cross-examination, Ophoven appeared agitated and fidgeted while at the witness stand.

"You don't make any diagnosis; you just go around testifying, don't you?" said Lahey, in reference to Ophoven testifying in several other murder trials.

"I review cases; rarely, I testify," Ophoven said.

Lahey then asked whether Ophoven believed the "severe brain damage" and 21 documented lesions on the child's body were an indication of "a battered child." Ophoven said the lesions were no such indication.

Spies said the defense had "three or four" additional witnesses to present, and both parties felt they could probably begin closing arguments on Wednesday.

The defense will continue calling witnesses at 9 a.m. today in the Johnson County Courthouse.

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