Trial Begins For Okmulgee Woman Charged With Death Of Child
Tara Vreeland, News On 6
OKMULGEE, Oklahoma -- The trial is underway for an Okmulgee county woman charged with abusing and murdering her 3-year-old foster daughter.
Kyra Zubah died in 2009. Eight men and four women were seated in the jury Monday in the case against Sharon Whitecloud. Whitecloud, 62, entered a plea of not guilty. During opening statements, the prosecution and the defense painted the picture of Kyra as a happy and loving little girl.
But both gave different versions of the night Kyra received a head injury that resulted in her death.
In 2009, Kyra Zubah was told she was going on a trip.
"She was really excited to go on a trip, and she packed for it," said Kyra's former foster aunt Alyson Moses. "As they drove away, she said ‘bye Grammy' and she blew kisses. ‘Bye Grammy I see you later.'"
Kyra had been with the same foster family since she was just 11 weeks old. But four months shy of her third birthday, she was removed from that home and put into the Creek Nation tribal home of Sharon Whitecloud.
"The day that she was taken from us was the worst," Moses said.
That day was the last time her first foster family saw her alive.
A few months later, the family learned Kyra was on life support after suffering a head injury.
"I thought we'll get there, she'll hear our voices and wake up. That just wasn't possible. She was completely gone," Moses said.
Kyra died just days later.
"When we found out what happened to her and charges were filed, I just don't know what she went through in that home, and I don't know what it was like," she said.
A jury heard opening statements on Monday afternoon.
Prosecutors say Whitecloud, her new foster mother, had taken the antidepressant and sleep aid Trazadone that night while the five kids in her care stayed up playing.
They say when she woke up, Kyra was under the recliner. Whitecloud told investigators she picked her up, shook her and dropped her twice - and Kyra hit her head. The prosecution says Kyra never woke up, and her death was no accident.
But the defense says it was an accident. They say Kyra was roughhousing with two boys, including Whitecloud's grandson. They say he swung Kyra by her legs and she hit her head on a table. The defense says Whitecloud says she shook Kyra in her panic and dropped her, but they say that's not what caused the death.
The defense says Whitecloud has been a foster mother to dozens of kids for years with no other accusations of abuse.
The Department of Human Services closed Whitecloud's tribal foster care home after Kyra's death.
On Monday the jury also heard from medical experts about the little girl's injuries.