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Tennessee prosecutors presented evidence against a mother that they say proves her toddler was not accidentally killed but intentionally murdered.
A medical examiner testified Friday that 15-month-old Evelyn Boswell had been alive when she was “tightly” wrapped in a fleece blanket and shoved upside down into a trash can, where she was later discovered by investigators.
The child's mother, Megan Boswell is facing felony murder charges in the case, according to Tennessee Lookout, and the grisly details of the toddler’s death were revealed for the first time during a hearing Friday to determine what photos could be used as evidence in the upcoming trial.
Evelyn was reported missing by her grandfather, Tommy Boswell Sr., in February of 2020 after he told authorities he hadn’t seen the child since December 2019, according to Johnson City, Tennessee CBS affiliate WJHL.
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Agent Brian Fraley testified that the toddler’s body was discovered after authorities got a call from Tommy Boswell, Sr., on March 6, 2020, asking them to search a storage shed on his property for the missing toddler.
“He believed it may have been valuable for us to look in it and search, so we did respond and search that,” Fraley said, according to WKRN.
Behind the shed, investigators discovered an old, unused playhouse Megan’s father had once built for his daughter and noticed a trash can and two trash bags just inside the door of the playhouse.
“It was my belief that they were placed there recently... compared to other items in the playhouse,” Fraley said, noting that there were more cobwebs and dust on the other items. He said he believed that the two bags and the can had been placed there weeks or months before he found them, but that it had been years since anyone had otherwise used the structure.
Fraley testified that he took the trash bags and the can out of the playhouse and placed it on the structure's porch, noting it was consistent with the can Megan Boswell had allegedly mentioned in a prior statement. After lifting one bag of trash off the top of the can, he saw part of Evelyn’s body, in a purple fleece onesie with penguins on it and wrapped in a fleece blanket as the defendant had allegedly described it.
“I observed a leg (with) a foot attached…on top of the trash,” he said.
After other officers arrived, he removed the other trash from the can, "layer by layer," until they were able to remove Evelyn's body, he testified.
Megan Boswell had, shortly before the body was discovered, allegedly told investigators that Evelyn had died of accidental asphyxiation while she was co-sleeping with her and her mother's then-boyfriend.
“She claimed that it was an accidental death, that she and her boyfriend at the time were sleeping in bed with (Evelyn) and when they woke up that morning that she was unresponsive, that she had been smothered,” Tennessee Bureau of Investigations Special Agent David Gratz testified on Thursday.
According to Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Darinka Mileusnic-Polchan, who also testified, the girl had been unnaturally folded and wrapped tightly in a blanket and foil, according to WJHL.
The forensic pathologist said that Evelyn had been alive when she was wrapped in the blanket and smashed head-first into the trash can. Mileusnic-Polchan said the cause of death was asphyxiation.
“The disposal of this child was remarkable,” she said, according to the local news outlet. “She was sort of compressed in the can … (in an) accordion-like position. There was a severe overextension of her head and neck … an extreme extension. (The blanket) was not just haphazardly placed (around her body). It was tightly wrapped (to) prevent her from breathing … The blanket left imprints on (Evelyn’s skin).”
Miluesnic-Polchan added that the child had been “too old” to have died while co-sleeping and said her onesie was found unzipped, which was why her leg and foot were visible in the trash.
“This was not a child dying in her sleep,” she testified.
Megan Boswell had provided investigator with “a number of conflicting statements” about the child’s whereabouts, the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement released that year.
She allegedly initially told investigators Evelyn had been staying with the child's biological father and then reported she was with Megan Boswell's own drug-addicted mother, Angela Jones Boswell, at a Virginia campground. When neither of those stories checked out, she was charged with false reporting, according to Roanoke, Virginia CBS affiliate WDBJ.
Megan Boswell allegedly admitted later the child was dead but wouldn’t reveal the location of the body, Gratz told the court in April, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel. She was charged in August 2020 with murder and has pleaded not guilty in the case.
In the hearing on Friday, Megan’s defense attorney Brad Sproles argued against showing the jury photos of the child’s body after Evelyn was discovered — including one where her face had been damaged because it had been so tightly wrapped up — claiming that the photos were so graphic they could unfairly bias the jury against his client.
While Miluesnic-Polchan admitted the image of her face was “disturbing” she argued that it would help show the jury how tightly-confined the child had been inside the blanket and help them determine whether the death had been a homicide.
The judge ultimately agreed to allow nearly a dozen photographs, although the close-up photo of her face was excluded because the judge believed it could be so disturbing that it could unfairly bias jurors.
The trial, which was originally slated for this month, has been rescheduled for February of 2023.
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