BELFAST, Maine — On the fifth day of her manslaughter trial, Miranda Hopkins told a jury that she initially lied to police about what happened the night of her baby’s death because she feared having her other sons taken away from her.
Hopkins is charged with manslaughter in the January death of her 7-week-old son, Jaxson. Hopkins told police that she awoke in the early morning hours of Jan. 12 and reached over in the bed next to her to find Jaxson’s bruised, broken, cold, lifeless body.
In multiple interviews with police during the hours after her youngest son’s death, Hopkins told police she was co-sleeping with Jaxson in her bedroom in the cluttered Troy trailer they shared with Hopkins other sons, ages 6 and 8, who have been described as “profoundly autistic” and nonverbal. She said she woke with gall bladder pain in the middle of the night, checked on Jaxson and the two other boys, who share a bedroom at the opposite end of the trailer, grabbed an ice pack, and went back to bed.
A few hours later, she woke to find Jaxson dead. She said one of her older sons, likely the 8-year-old, must have scaled the 3-foot-baby gate that blocked her bedroom, climbed onto the bed, and either crushed or beat Jaxson without her hearing or feeling anything.
But much of this initial story was a lie, she told jurors in a Belfast courtroom on Monday.
“I’d been drinking, I’d passed out, and my baby was killed,” she told jurors. “I was scared of what might happen.”
She worried she might lose custody of her two autistic sons, who need around-the-clock care and attention. Those boys moved in with relatives in the Bangor area after Hopkins’ arrest.
“I can’t imagine them without me,” she testified Monday.
After her arrest, she contacted a Maine State Police detective and asked him to come talk to her at Two Bridges Regional Jail, because she wanted to “come clean.”
Hopkins said that she drank several shots of whisky and smoked marijuana with friends at home earlier in the day and didn’t have much dinner. She later “passed out” in her older sons’ bedroom while putting them to bed while Jaxson was in his “bouncy chair” in the living room.
She woke up in pain later that night and went to get an ice pack. She then went to her own room, but didn’t check Jaxson on her way through the living room. She said she awoke a few hours later to find Jaxson dead in her bed, between her and her wall, and her eldest son asleep on the couch.
“Were you afraid for your boys, or were you afraid for yourself?” asked the prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea.
“My boys,” Hopkins responded, “and myself.”
The defense has argued during the trial that the boys would have been capable of inflicting serious injuries on Jaxson, and that the 6-year-old has shown aggressive tendencies against other children in the past. Jaxson suffered extensive injuries, including skull fractures, 15 broken ribs, a broken right arm, and cuts and bruises from head to toe. Hopkins said she never heard cries, a scuffle, or the loud vocalizations her autistic sons make when they’re agitated or excited.
Prosecutors have said Hopkins’ stories don’t line up, and have questioned how she didn’t hear or notice anything that night. They also point to witness testimony that the boys had never been rough with the baby in the past, and findings that some of Jaxson’s injuries could have been caused by shaking.
The defense rested after Hopkins testified on Monday, the trial’s fifth day. The prosecution and defense are expected to present closing arguments Tuesday morning before the 15-member jury goes behind closed doors to decide whether Hopkins is guilty of manslaughter.
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