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Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

Judge closes hearing related to baby's death

By Margie Wuebker
A Mercer County judge closed a Tuesday hearing to the public and the media at which a coroner was to answer questions regarding the July 6 death of a St. Henry area infant.
Trevor James Stammen, 6-month-old son of Brian and Angela Stammen, 2066 Fleetfoot Road, died at Children's Medical Center in Dayton after reportedly being found unresponsive at the home of a baby sitter.
The death certificate signed by Dr. Kent Edward Harshbarger of the Montgomery County Coroner's Office listed the cause of death as blunt force trauma to the head and the manner of death as a homicide. No details have been released as yet to indicate when or where the injuries occurred.
The hearing in the juvenile court of Judge Mary Pat Zitter was scheduled to commence at 11:30 a.m., but attorneys met behind closed doors after a Daily Standard reporter arrived. Mercer County Prosecutor Andrew Hinders subsequently filed a motion to close the court proceeding on behalf of the Mercer County Department of Job and Family Services.
Hinders stated closure to the public would be in the best interest of the infant's three siblings, adding the matter involves internal family relationships and the department's services to the family.
Although juvenile court cases are considered open, the court may exclude the general public if a separate hearing is held to determine whether exclusion is appropriate. This hearing was held Tuesday afternoon, with the closed hearing conducted immediately afterward.
"Public interest and the welfare of the children have to be weighed in deciding to close the hearing," Zitter said prior to granting Hinders' motion.
She noted no one has been accused of anything at this point and the publishing of sensitive information could open the siblings to ridicule.
The Daily Standard sought to listen to the testimony of Dr. Harshbarger and not to publish family information. While outside of the courtroom, Harshbarger was asked to comment, but said he could not because the case was still under investigation.
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