2010-10-14 / Local & State

McKee Guilty Of First-Degree Child Abuse

Acquitted of second-degree murder in death of 5-week-old daughter

Nicholas McKee Nicholas McKee A three-day bench trial for a Warfordsburg area man charged in the death of his 5-week-old daughter ended with mixed results on Friday.

Having taken around two hours to consider testimony, Washington County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Dwyer ruled Nicholas Ray McKee of 453 Flickerville Road not guilty of second-degree murder and first-degree assault of Bella Appel-McKee.

According to news reports published by The Herald Mail, Judge Dwyer announced that even though McKee acted in a “grossly negligent manner” that resulted in the newborn’s death, it was not the “malice aforethought” necessary for a conviction of second degree murder.”

McKee, however, was found guilty of several counts, including first-degree child abuse resulting in death, involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, and reckless endangerment. The combined sentences carry a maximum prison sentence of 55 years.

Jordan Appel, the infant’s mother, did testify, though, that she had considered taking baby Bella to her grandmother’s for dinner on January 3. Due to the cold weather and the baby having a slight cold, Appel stated she opted to leave Bella with McKee at the residence they shared at 139 Washington Street in Hancock, Md. Around 30 minutes later, Appel returned to the home after learning emergency responders were at the residence.

Bella was eventually transported to Children’s National Medical Center located in Washington, D.C., where she died six days later on January 9. Injuries suffered by the baby ranged from extensive cranial hemorrhaging and fractures to the rear of her skull to hemorrhaging to the optic nerve sheathing and retinas. Doctors providing detailed, expert testimony regarding the baby’s injuries were pediatrician Dr. Tanya Hinds, neurosurgeon Dr. Ronald H. Uscinski and medical examiner Dr. Sarah Colvin.

McKee, 23, chose not to testify during the two days of testimony offered before Dwyer. Appel testified, though, information shared with her by McKee in the days leading to Bella’s death changed.

Appel, the Herald Mail reported, said McKee remembered more details and recalled dropping the baby onto his chest while he laid on the couch. McKee, Appel added, had previously said he found the girl not breathing, that she had vomited and went limp while laying on the changing table. During a 911 call, McKee was given instructions on how to perform CPR on his infant.

A presentence investigation was ordered by Dwyer, with sentencing tentatively scheduled for December 8.

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