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State to seek max penalty in childs death
Jury convicts Johnson on all eight counts
deal closing 1
Assistant District Attorney Brian Deal makes his closing arguments to the jury of six men and six women Friday afternoon in the murder trial of Kevin Johnson. Jurors deliberated less than two hours before returning a guilty verdict. - photo by Pool photo by DeAnn Komanecky

Prosecutors intend to seek the maximum penalty in the February 2010 death of a 2-year-old child.

A jury of six men and six women found Kevin Johnson guilty Friday of all eight counts stemming from the death of Melanie Rose Haynes, the daughter of his then-girlfriend, Angela Rocha. Jurors deliberated less than two hours before returning guilty verdicts on charges of malice murder, three counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated battery, one count of aggravated assault and one count of cruelty to children.

“That state is very satisfied that justice, as much as we can give, has been given to Melanie Rose Haynes,” said Ogeechee Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Brian Deal. “The evidence was overwhelming.”

Johnson showed no emotion when the verdicts were read, and Deal pointed that out later.

“His demeanor was as empty and cold as he has been throughout this entire process,” Deal said.

Deal also said that some of Johnson’s statements from the witness stand should be insulting to anybody intelligent “as well as his saying he would say anything to protect himself.”

The state will seek life without parole for Johnson, according to Deal. A sentencing date will be held later, and Deal also became choked up when asking Melanie Rose Haynes’ paternal grandparents to make a statement in court after the verdict.

“It seems life will never be the same,” said Mike Haynes, Melanie’s grandfather. “The sight of a grandchild with tubes coming out of her was unsettling and wrong. Seeing them wheel her out to harvest her organs is a moment no parent or grandparent should have to endure.”

The state’s final witness in the three-day case was Dr. Jamie Downs, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Coastal Regional chief medical examiner. Dr. Downs was called in to examine Haynes while she was still on life support at Memorial University Medical Center, and he conducted his autopsy two days later on Feb. 12, 2010.

Downs ruled Haynes’ death a homicide.

“She died as a result of multiple blunt force injuries,” he said. “There’s no reasonable explanation to account for the totality of the findings.”

Dr. Downs documented the various injuries to Haynes, including a series of bruises ranging from one-tenth of an inch to groups of bruises that were more than two and a half inches in size. He described multiple injuries around the center of the forehead and some just below the right eye, including a bruise on the nose.

Downs testified that he noticed a pattern of injuries on the nose and the eyelid and a similar pattern on the forehead.

“At the time, I had an idea what might have caused it,” he said. “I’ve seen this pattern before. It likely was caused by a hairbrush.”

Downs called the blow that caused the skull fracture a “moderately forceful blow.”

“There were so many different injuries,” he said.

He also examined soft tissue injuries to the neck and spinal cord, injuries he has seen only in a couple of incidents.

“One is from multiple blunt force injuries, and the other is from a car crash,” Downs said. “I saw no indication the child had been in a car crash.”

Downs also said the bleeding in the soft tissue around the right eye also was inflicted by a blow.

“I don’t like the term ‘shaken baby syndrome,’” he said. “It doesn’t convey the level of force required. This injury occurred with a forceful blow across the eye. It fractured the orbit.”

Downs said of the child’s bruises could be consistent with the CPR she received from emergency personnel who were summoned to the home on the report of an unresponsive child. Dr. Downs said it is often to difficult to determine the age of bruises once they reach golden-brown in color, since that state can persist for up to 30 days.

“One of the best ways to determine the age of a bruise is to talk to someone who was there,” he said.

Johnson took the stand as the only witness in his defense and said he never hurt the child. He testified for nearly one hour and 15 minutes and told jurors he had a good relationship with the child and her mother.

“I had never had any experience with children,” he said. “I didn’t know how to take care of them. I didn’t want to have children until I could take care of them financially. At first, I felt scared of being a stepfather. Angela is a beautiful, beautiful woman. She has a beautiful heart. Melanie was the most beautiful baby I’ve seen in my whole life.”

Johnson said he and Rocha dated for about six months before he moved in with her and Melanie.

“My relationship with Melanie was the best thing that happened to me,” he said. “When I started taking care of Melanie, that was the happiest time of my life. There was an emptiness inside of me. My life isn’t complete because I won’t be able to see Melanie again. I’m double broken-hearted; I’ve lost of both of them.”

Johnson was alone with the child when he heard a thump and assumed she had fallen off the back of the sofa, he said. Later that night, she became sick, and he took her into the tub to clean her off. She slipped while getting out of the tub, he said, falling backward and hitting her head.

But Deal questioned Johnson on his inconsistent statements to investigators on what happened to the child. Johnson told detectives that she hit her head on a dresser as he was swinging her around and that he related that in order to save himself.

“That was a complete lie,” he said. “I said it so I could keep from getting beaten up by investigators.”

Johnson alleged that two unnamed deputies beat him up after he was questioned by detectives and arrested.

“The defendant has an explanation for everything,” Deal said in his closing arguments. “What he doesn’t have an explanation for is how Melanie Rose Haynes lost her life. We know that on Feb. 9, 2010, this girl woke up and there was nothing wrong with her, other than a bruise on her face. He was the sole person around and we know that later that night that little girl was cold, blue and dead on the floor.”

Judge John R. Turner allowed Mike and Linda Haynes to make their statements ahead of sentencing, since the Haynes family was going back to Nebraska. Melanie’s father Kevin Haynes is stationed in Germany.

“Where do you start when you are asked how the death of a 2-year-old grandchild has affected your life?” Linda Haynes said. “Melanie Rose will never be forgotten. She was a perfect, beautiful granddaughter.

“We just want justice for Melanie.”