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Trial date reset for accused baby killers

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By Calen McKinney

 

The mother and stepfather accused of killing their baby won't face a jury next month after all.

Dale Brucker, 26, and Brianna Brucker, 20, of 109 Mill St. in Campbellsville, are accused of killing Brianna Brucker's 3-month-old baby, Charles Brett Hayden Jr.

The Bruckers' cases were heard Tuesday in Taylor Circuit Court, though neither defendant appeared before Taylor Circuit Court Judge Allan Bertram.

Donald Thomas of Casey County, who is representing Brianna Brucker in the case, said his client is currently incarcerated in Hamilton County, Ohio, and has been charged with committing drug crimes.

Brianna Brucker was freed in April on a $50,000 unsecured bond, when Bertram agreed to lower Brucker's $100,000 cash bond. A condition of her release was that she commits no further crimes.

A Taylor County arrest warrant was issued for Mrs. Brucker on June 24, stating that she has violated the terms of her release.

Thomas told Bertram that his client's bond in Ohio has been set at 10 percent of $1,000. He said he has spoken with several of Mrs. Brucker's family members, who said they aren't sure they can pay the $100 to have her released.

If the $100 is posted, Mrs. Brucker will be transported back to Taylor County to answer to her active arrest warrant.

Thomas said he has been told the charge Mrs. Brucker faces in Ohio is minor and will likely be dismissed if she attends treatment.

He said the Ohio case has been rescheduled three times, and Mrs. Brucker is now set to appear before a judge in that case on Tuesday.

"I'm some frustrated, your honor," Thomas said to Bertram. "I'm trying to get her back here."

With Mrs. Brucker's impending court case in Ohio, Thomas said, and her being away for a while now, he believes he can't be prepared for her murder trial, which is scheduled to begin Oct. 29.

Bertram said the case is somewhat on hold until Mrs. Brucker comes back to Kentucky.

Several of Mrs. Brucker's family members, who attended the hearing on Tuesday, said they will pay the $100 to have her transported back to Taylor County.

Thomas asked that another pretrial hearing be set in a month to discuss the status of Mrs. Brucker's case. He said he will likely ask to have his client evaluated, because he is concerned about her judgment.

And Thomas said there might be a need to call other expert witnesses to testify, because of the nature of the case against his client.

Once Mrs. Brucker comes back to Kentucky, Thomas said, he intends to meet with her and begin filing some motions in her case.

Bertram cancelled Brucker's trial date on Oct. 29 and scheduled a hearing for Tuesday, Oct. 22, at 1 p.m.

No other information about Mrs. Brucker's case in Ohio was available at press time.

Mr. Brucker's attorney, Shanda West-Stiles of the Department of Public Advocacy in Columbia, said her client is still incarcerated at the Russell County Detention Center. She said his case is progressing as scheduled.

Bertram asked if the Bruckers' trials will be conducted together. West-Stiles said that is the plan as of now.

As such, Bertram asked if West-Stiles is agreeable to canceling Mr. Brucker's trial set for Oct. 29.

"We have anticipated this was going to happen," she said.

The same Oct. 22 hearing date was scheduled in Mr. Brucker's case.

Commonwealth's Attorney Shelly Miller is prosecuting the case against the Bruckers.

 

The Case

A Taylor County grand jury indicted the Bruckers in January after a six-month police investigation into the infant's death.

Since then, the Bruckers 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.

According to Campbellsville Police Chief Tim Hazlette, an investigation into Hayden's death began after someone called 911 in July 2012 and said the baby needed medical attention.

A Campbellsville Police news release 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 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.

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.

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