2011-10-06 / Front Page

Pittman Found Guilty Of 3rd Degree Murder In Child’s Death

Commonwealth seeks “justice” in death of 2- year-old Kylie York
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz

Shane Pittman Shane Pittman Fulton County District Attorney Travis Kendall asked for justice last Thursday afternoon in closing out a two-day trial for Needmore resident Shane Douglas Pittman. Those final words did not fall on deaf ears as a jury deliberated for nearly two hours before returning with a guilty verdict for third-degree murder in the 2009 death of toddler Kylie Marie York.

Although the verdict will not bring back the blonde-haired, bubbly daughter of Shannon Wood and Arthur York II, it did lay to rest for many the days and chain of events leading up to the 2-year-old’s tragic passing. From expert witnesses in the field of medicine to family and friends from a nearby hunting camp, the testimony was compelling but perhaps none more so than that given by Pittman himself.

Remaining cool and soft spoken on the stand, Pittman shared with the jury on December 2, 2009, he was awakened moments before 8 a.m. by Wood, who was preparing to leave for work at Giant Food Store. Kylie, Wood’s daughter, had been left in his care, and they both dozed off while watching an Elmo video, Pittman said.

Waking up around 11 a.m., Pittman testified he found Kylie “laying there, staring at a blank television” screen. Heading to the kitchen, the toddler managed only two to three bites of rainbow sherbet.

Pittman said she went into the living room where she stood “looking around, looking confused.” Having little interest in her toys or even coloring, Pittman said Kylie eventually threw up on her pajamas. He said he picked her up, carried her to the bathroom, placed her in the tub and cleaned her up.

Missing from his testimony were words and phrases such as “snapping,” which in his written statement referred to the motion that Kylie’s head repeatedly underwent while he ran her back the mobile home’s hallway to the bathroom. Pittman testified last Thursday the word “snapped” as well as “dropped” and “convulsing” were all words suggested to him by investigating officers from the Pennsylvania State Police Mc- Connellsburg barracks.

In suggesting he use those words in his written statement or confession given at the barracks as well as in a prior interview at Penn State Children’s Hospital at Hershey, Pittman told the court the officers screamed at him in each ear and told him what words they wanted to hear.

Criminal investigator Trooper Blaine Henderson, formerly of the McConnellsburg barracks, addressed the allegations of screaming during interviews and stated he has never been a believer in yelling at anyone. “The most effective manner is being calm ... that’s not saying I’m not accusatory ... ,” Henderson said.

“He (Pittman) wasn’t being mean to me, and I had no reason to raise my voice to him,” he added. “I would never put words in someone’s mouth. That’s why we get written statements.”

Also taking the stand during the commonwealth’s opportunity to present rebuttal evidence was state police Cpl. William Baker, who said it was “absolutely not true” that he and Trooper Henderson yelled and screamed at the defendant. He noted just outside the door during the hospitalbased interview were caseworkers as well as doctors.

“Had we screamed, you certainly would have heard it. It’s a quiet hallway,” said Cpl. Baker. “From experience and training, you don’t get better results with yelling and screaming. Flipping tables like on television doesn’t go on in real life.”

Christine McQuade, a supervisor with the Fulton County Services for Children, briefly took the stand and reported she was only sitting one foot from the door of the hospital room being used for interviews. She did not hear any screaming coming from the room.

In addition to Pittman taking the stand in his own defense, paid expert witness Dr. Harold Buttram was called to the stand by defense attorney Dwight Harvey to share his opinions on how Kylie York could have sustained her fatal injuries.

Based on prior statements given by Wood that her daughter ate “weird” and at times snacked throughout the day, Dr. Buttram stated there was a “likelihood” Kylie’s diet left her deficient in Vitamin K and D and calcium. Those deficiencies would have made her more vulnerable to bone injuries such as fractures of the spinal cord.

Buttram also touched on the possibility of a blood deficiency or that a flu vaccination received by Kylie in mid-November could be linked to the trauma. The 85-yearold retired physician further stated Kylie’s complaints of being sick to her stomach and eventually throwing up on December 2, 2009, could have been caused by an existing blood hemorrhage. Furthermore, blood tests taken that same afternoon at Fulton County Medical Center were “slightly abnormal” and could be indicative of a “proneness to bleeding or abnormal clotting.”

He then maintained that an initial reading of scans at Fulton County Medical Center was perfectly in line with a diagnosis of sub acute subdural hematoma as were Hershey’s results that revealed acute bleeding. Buttram stated the acute results were as a result of a “rebleed” or fresh hemorrhage that occurred between the two scans.

Countering all of Buttram’s testimony were a variety of expert witnesses, including forensic pathologist Dr. Samuel Lane, neuropathologist Dr. Daniel Brown, radiologist Dr. Frank D’Amelio and Dr. Robert Tamburro Jr., a pediatric critical-care physician. The doctors stated the CAT scan results at the Medical Center should have mirrored that of Hershey’s findings – an acute subdural hematoma. Acute bleeding would have begun within three days of the scan being performed.

Dr. D’Amelio testified he made a mistake on the topic of acute or sub acute bleeding while dictating the findings for his initial report. It was noted an amendment to the original findings was made in January 2011, after the commonwealth spoke with D’Amelio regarding his initial diagnosis of sub acute.

The group of physicians also vehemently denied Buttram’s testimony that any vulnerability to injuries could have been linked to dietary deficiencies, a blood disorder or a flu vaccination. They did appear to agree collectively, though, on the whiplash style of injuries, the extensive bruising and the fractures to the spinal cord the child sustained.

A group of hunters from the Twin Oaks hunting camp on Meadow Grounds Lake were called in to testify for the commonwealth as to Kylie’s condition when she visited the camp on November 29, 2009. The men had varying degrees of interaction with the 2-year-old, but all said she was happy, sociable and in good spirits. None of the men reported noticing any bruising on Kylie. However, the girl’s grandmother Kelly Tritle, of Needmore, testified seeing a bruise on her temple that evening at the hunting camp.

Kylie’s father, Arthur York II, said his daughter came to his home earlier that week to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. The bruise was there at the time, but there was some debate during the trial if Kylie sustained the bruise during a bathtub fall at York’s home or if she had the bruising when she arrived.

In rendering a verdict in the Pittman case, jurors were asked to differentiate between three categories of criminal homicide – firstdegree murder, third-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. In being found guilty of third-degree murder, the jury determined Pittman performed the acts or murder with malice and without regard of death or high risk of injury.

Sentencing is tentatively scheduled for November 15.

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