It was between 9 and 10 a.m. March 1, 2012, when 29-year-old Montey Murray walked into the emergency room doors with a limp child in his arms, a nurse recalled on the witness stand Thursday.
That child—3-year-old Jaronn McAllister—was pronounced dead minutes after he arrived at Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center in Bolivia.
The State’s case against Murray, charged with first-degree murder in connection with Jaronn’s death, continued Thursday after a more than week of testimony.
Richard Smith, a registered nurse at Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center, testified that he was working in the ER the morning Jaronn was brought into the hospital. Smith was sitting down at the desk when he saw Murray walk into the ER. As first-nurse, Smith’s duty was to sit in the lobby, greet walk-in patients and prioritize patients based on severity.
“Mr. Murray walked in though the entrance…and he was carrying a child in his arms,” Smith said. “As he walked up to the desk where I was sitting, Mr. Murray repeated several times that a dog had bit his child,” Smith said.
“Did he say that more than once?” Assistant District Attorney Quintin McGee asked. “Yes,” said Smith.
“When he initially walked in and said a dog bit his child my initial thought was just that–it was a dog bite. But as he got closer to the desk, I didn’t see the child moving. He seemed very limp and I sped up to feel if the child had a pulse. When I put my hand on him, he was cold and damp.
“When…I couldn’t feel a pulse, I grabbed Mr. Murray by the arm and walked him behind the desk and into one of the emergency rooms that we have.”
Smith checked for a pulse again and there was no pulse, so they started CPR.
“People came into the room. CPR was in progress and I walked Mr. Murray out to the waiting room,” Smith said.
Other ER nurses took over treating Jaronn.
James Payne, a defense attorney representing Murray, asked: “Do you recall Mr. Murray not wanting to leave the emergency room?”
“Yes,” Smith said.
Dr. Mark Hanna, an emergency room physician, was working when Jaronn was brought to the hospital.
“I was alerted by the nursing staff…they informed me there was an unresponsive child,” Hanna said. “He was completely unresponsive. There were really no signs of life at that time. We started initially resuscitating the child. But the initial evaluation was grim…there were no signs of life. There was bruising around the chest and upper abdomen. There might have been a bruise on the head.”
“Now did you see any injuries on the child that were consistent with being bitten by a dog?” Assistant District Attorney Lee Bollinger asked. “No. I did not,” Hanna replied.
Hanna testified that after all medical efforts were exhausted, he pronounced Jaronn dead and went to the waiting room to tell Jaronn’s mother.
“After you pronounced the child dead…you went to this waiting area and told Candice Young, the child’s mother, and Murray that the child was dead. Do you recall that?” Bollinger asked.
“Yes I do. I told them that their child had died. They were obviously upset,” Hanna said.
“Do you recall how Miss Young reacted?” Bollinger asked.
“She started sobbing, dropped to the ground or to the chair,” Hanna replied.
“And how about Mr. Murray?” asked Bollinger.
“He started pacing back and forth in the room and repeating, ‘He’s dead?’ He was upset and he left.” Hanna said.
“Did you ever see him again?” Bollinger asked. “No,” he replied.
Payne asked Hanna about Murray’s reaction in the waiting room.
“You were specifically asked, ‘Did Mr. Murray appear to be emotional?’ and you said, ‘everyone was distraught.’ Right?” Payne said.
“Correct,” Hanna replied.
Mother of Murray’s daughters testifies to phone call after Jaronn’s death
The morning of March 1, 2012, Nicole Williams, the mother of Murray’s two daughters, said she was in Andrews, South Carolina, when she received a call from Murray at about 9:47 a.m.
“When he called, I answered…and [he said] ‘They’re probably going to get me for manslaughter.’ I said, ‘What?’ And he responded ‘Jaronn was dead.’ I said, ‘What happened?’ After that, he tried to get Frank up.”
She said she overheard Murray telling Jessie Holt, also known as Frank, to get up to go to the hospital. The next thing she heard was Murray going outside, where he and Holt were approached by law enforcement.
“He told [the officer] that he was going back to the hospital. And that they can follow him,” Williams said. “So he got in the car…he put the car in reverse and he was on his way back to the hospital. I could hear sirens in the background. And he was telling them, ‘Follow me to the hospital,’” Williams said.
“You do remember his tone of voice…how would you describe his tone of voice?” Payne asked.
“Worried…concerned,” Williams said.
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Christina Haley is a crime reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at (910) 772-6337 or Christina.firstname.lastname@example.org.