Child abuse court hearing adjourned after witness passes out

Posted by Elisabeth Waldon • Last Updated 3:57 pm on Wednesday, May 15 2013

Samantha Slater, right, looks at documents with her defense attorney Monica Tissue-Daws during a preliminary examination today in 64B District Court. — Daily News/Kelli Ameling

STANTON— A child abuse court hearing was adjourned again Tuesday after a witness passed out while testifying on the stand in 64B District Court.

Samantha Slater and Benjamin Wilkins, both 26 and both of Greenville, are each charged with first-degree and second-degree child abuse of Slater’s 2-year-old daughter Brooklyn Weimer.

Slater appeared in court Tuesday for the continuation of a preliminary examination which was adjourned last Tuesday after Montcalm County Prosecutor Andrea Krause asked Judge Donald Hemingsen for more time to present the case before the judge decides whether there’s enough evidence to bind Slater over for trial in 8th Judicial Circuit Court.

Wilkins waived his preliminary examination last Tuesday. He is currently considering an offer from the Montcalm County Prosecutor’s Office. If he pleads guilty to second-degree child abuse and being a habitual offender second offense, the first-degree child abuse charge would be dropped and he would face up to 15 years in prison, instead of the possible life sentence he and Slater are currently facing.

Krause called Wilkins’ sister Rebecca Carriveau to the stand on Tuesday. Carriveau was living at 317 W. Grove St. in Greenville when the alleged child abuse occurred, along with Carriveau’s husband and 5-year-old son, Carriveau’s mother, Slater, Wilkins and Brooklyn.

Carriveau testified that Brooklyn was watching cartoons with her mother and acting and talking normally the morning of Sunday, March 24. Carriveau left with her husband and son around 3 p.m. that day. She said Brooklyn, Slater and Wilkins were the only ones home.

Carriveau returned between 5 and 5:30 p.m. She said Wilkins was playing video games and Slater had an ice pack on her mouth. Carriveau said she asked Slater what happened to her, but Slater didn’t answer. (This story has been corrected to say that Slater had an ice pack on her mouth, instead of previously incorrectly saying that Brooklyn had an ice pack on her mouth.) Carriveau said Brooklyn was acting and talking normally. Carriveau left a few minutes later. She returned around 10 p.m. only to find no one was home.

According to previous court testimony, at 9:02 p.m. March 24, Wilkins called Central Dispatch to request an ambulance for Brooklyn, who Wilkins said was unresponsive. According to court documents, Wilkins later told police that he had put Brooklyn in the bathroom for a timeout at 7:50 p.m. and later found her unresponsive. He said he had fabricated previous stories when calling a local hospital for medical advice because he did not want police or the Department of Human Services involved.

On Tuesday, Carriveau became visibly confused and upset during a line of questioning. Krause was asking Carriveau whether Carriveau had ever heard Slater make a statement to the effect of how if Slater’s children ever got hurt, Slater would take them to a doctor and not to an emergency room because she didn’t want Child Protective Services to get involved.

As Krause and Slater’s defense attorney Monica Tissue-Daws argued with the judge about whether those statements should be admissible, Carriveau began silently shaking. The judge called a recess for everyone to take a break. Immediately after the recess was called, Carriveau’s face turned a reddish-purple color and she suddenly collapsed out of the witness chair, striking her head on the judge’s bench.

Carriveau apparently had multiple seizures after she collapsed. An ambulance was immediately called and rescue workers attended to Carriveau before transporting her to Sheridan Community Hospital, about six miles away.

Krause asked that the court hearing be rescheduled for later this week so she could resume questioning Carriveau. Tissue-Daws protested that the court hearing had already been adjourned once before because of Krause. However, Hemingsen noted that Carriveau’s seizure was not anyone’s fault.

The hearing has been rescheduled to continue at 3 p.m. Thursday.

A related case is currently pending in Montcalm County Juvenile Court to determine whether Slater, Wilkins and Slater’s ex-husband Brent Slater should have their parental rights terminated.

Samantha Slater is out of jail on bond, while Wilkins remains in jail custody on a parole violation.

Brooklyn’s biological father is currently in prison. Attorney Tammi Shaw of Lakeview has been court-appointed as Brooklyn’s advocate.

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