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Jury trial set in infant murder case

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By Calen McKinney

Their peers are expected to decide in October whether Dale and Brianna Brucker murdered her 3-month-old baby.

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Brianna Brucker, 20, of 109 Mill St. in Campbellsville, was in court on Tuesday to ask a judge to schedule a jury trial in her murder case.

Brucker and her husband, Dale, 26, also of 109 Mill St., are charged with murdering 3-month-old Charles Brett Hayden Jr., Brianna's son and Dale's stepson.

The two were indicted by a Taylor County grand jury in January after a six-month police investigation into the baby's death. They have pleaded not guilty to murder, which is a Class A felony punishable by as much as life in prison.

According to their indictments, the Bruckers caused the trauma that led to the baby's death last July 22 at Kosair Children's Hospital in Louisville. Police say Hayden died of blunt force trauma.

On Tuesday, Brianna Brucker appeared in Taylor Circuit Court before Circuit Court Judge Allan Bertram with her attorney, Donald Thomas of Casey County, to ask that a trial date be set in her case. Bertram asked what timeframe Thomas suggests.

Thomas said he will be representing a client at another trial in January, so that month and the first weeks of February are likely out.

He said he isn't in a hurry to begin trial, because his client has been released on bond and is completing the requirements set by pretrial services staff members.

It was asked if this coming October is too early for the trial. It was also asked whether the Bruckers will be tried at the same time. No formal request has been entered into court records addressing that.

Thomas said he imagines the prosecution will want to try Brianna Brucker after Dale Brucker, though he said that is only his speculation.

Bertram set Brianna Brucker's trial to begin Tuesday, Oct. 29, in Taylor Circuit Court. He said it will be scheduled for four days.

Commonwealth's Attorney Shelly Miller, the prosecutor in the case, said the trial could take longer than four days, however.

Bertram said the next available trial date after October isn't until the end of January.

Public Defender Shanda West-Stiles, who is representing Dale Brucker, asked that his case be set for a hearing on Tuesday, July 9, at 1 p.m. Dale Brucker did not appear before Bertram.

Pretrial conferences for both Bruckers were set for Tuesday, Sept. 17, at 1 p.m.

And, according to online court records, Dale Brucker's trial was also set to begin Oct. 29.

Miller did not return a request before press time to comment as to whether the Bruckers will be tried together or separately.

Online court records, however, indicate that their trials are scheduled to begin at the same time in Bertram's courtroom.

Dale Brucker remains incarcerated on a $125,000 cash bond. He has previously been denied requests to lower his bond.

Brianna Brucker was freed in April on a $50,000 unsecured bond, which Bertram agree to lower from $100,000 cash.

With an unsecured bond, defendants don't have to post money to be released. The amount set is what they will have to pay should they not return for scheduled court hearings.

Stiles argued at a hearing last month that Dale Brucker's bond should be reduced as his wife's was.

"His co-defendant was released from custody and Mr. Brucker remains in custody," West-Stiles said.

During that hearing, Bertram said Dale Brucker has been charged with other crimes and he is concerned about his criminal history.

West-Stiles said Brianna Brucker was freed, though she has been charged with crimes in another state and had an active arrest warrant at the time of her release.

"I don't believe that's the case for Mr. Brucker," she said.

Considering criminal history, Bertram denied Dale Brucker's request.


The Case

According to Campbellsville Police Chief Tim Hazlette, an investigation into Hayden's death began after someone called 911 last July and said the baby needed medical attention.

A Campbellsville Police news release from July states that Campbellsville/Taylor County EMS personnel responded to a call reporting that the 3-month-old was unresponsive at Dale and Brianna Brucker's home on Mill Street.

The infant was treated at Taylor Regional Hospital and later transported to Kosair Children's Hospital in Louisville, where he was pronounced dead.

An autopsy for the infant was conducted shortly after his death at the state medical examiner's office in Louisville.

TRH staff members notified law enforcement of the death after they found evidence that concerned them, Hazlette said.

In July, the death was being investigated and hadn't yet been ruled as accidental, from natural causes or as the result of a homicide.

Since then, Hazlette said, police have continued the investigation by interviewing the Bruckers about their alleged involvement in the incident. He said they have also taken polygraph tests.

Hazlette said lab and medical examiner reports, which were shown to grand jurors, show that the infant died of non-accidental blunt force trauma to his head.

"It's unclear what manner that blunt force trauma was delivered," he said.

Campbellsville Police Detective David Tucker is investigating the case against the Bruckers.

• An indictment is a legal accusation only. It does not establish guilt.