Ogden will face trial in daughter’s death
The evidence against Matthew Ogden in the homicide of his month-old daughter is strong enough to hold him without bond and move toward a trial, Judge John Neiley decided following a preliminary hearing last Thursday, Nov. 5.
Phyllis “Amy” Wyatt, Ogden’s wife and co-defendant, waived her right to a preliminary hearing — “to keep the door open for negotiation,” according to her attorney Kathy Goudy — and remains in custody on a $100,000 bond.
The couple’s 4-week-old daughter, Sara Ogden, died June 20 after suffering what an autopsy determined to be two potentially fatal injuries: bruising to her liver and a blunt force impact to the forehead that fractured her skull and caused hemorrhaging in her brain. Sarah’s twin brother was unharmed and taken into protective custody.
Ogden and Wyatt fled before warrants were issued, but were picked up June 30 in north-central Minnesota — an area Ogden reportedly visited as a child — on charges of being fugitives of justice from another state, a felony.
Ogden, 29, faces charges of first-degree murder of a child by a person in a position of trust, a first-degree felony; child abuse causing death, a second-degree felony; and two counts child abuse causing serious bodily injury, a third-degree felony. Wyatt, 41, faces charges of criminally negligent child abuse causing death, a third-degree felony.
The bulk of last Thursday’s proceedings revolved around the testimony of Lisa Miller, chief investigator for the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
Senior trial deputy district attorney Matt Barrett used the hearing to provide some context about the incident. Why had Ogden and Wyatt come to Colorado from California three months before?
Based on records and interviews, Miller had a theory.
“The information that I received was that Ms. Wyatt had been told that if the twins were born testing positive for marijuana, she would lose custody,” she said. “Colorado being a state where marijuana was legal, they made the decision to move.”
Was it normal for the parent of a deceased infant to insist on cremation while still at the hospital and go camping the next day? Not really, in Miller’s experience. Were any of Ogden’s explanations for the injury to Sarah’s forehead believable? Not according to conversations with the forensic examiner.
“This case involves a constellation of injuries … entirely consistent with nonaccidental trauma,” Barrett said in his concluding argument. Ogden “was observed being abusive with the child on multiple occasions by different individuals. … Sarah was never given a legitimate chance in this world because of this man’s actions.”
Public defender Kori Keil initially planned to call several witnesses of her own, but was limited by Neiley to cross examination and a single witness.
“I don’t see how you calling law enforcement personnel that formed the basis of investigator Miller’s case is really going to add anything,” he said.
Through Miller, Keil reminded the court of Wyatt’s past struggles with mental health, including self-described bipolar disorder, a nervous breakdown and postpartum depression with her previous children. She questioned Miller on her accusation of Ogden over Wyatt during an interview on June 22.
“The investigators essentially chose Mr. Ogden as the suspect in this case when the true cause of death had not been determined,” she said in her own conclusion.
In her examination of Parachute Police Officer Alexander Graham, she cast doubt on whether CPR performed before police arrived may have caused the liver injuries observed in the autopsy.
“There were still several hours in between when she was first given lifesaving techniques and when she was pronounced dead,” she said.
In any case, she asserted, the evidence was more supportive of the child abuse count than first-degree murder, which requires a knowing action.
“The evidence does not support probable cause, let alone ‘proof evident, presumption great,’ [a legal standard] with regards to count one,” she said.
“How do we know that he knowingly engaged in this activity? Because he split town,” he said.
Neiley agreed, citing Ogden’s multiple stories for the head injury and the pathologist’s assertion that the liver injury occurred at least 12 hours before death.
“Since that higher evidentiary standard has been met with regard to that count, the court also finds that the standard for the preliminary hearing has been met,” he said. “The court finds that probable cause exists to both counts.”
Ogden and Wyatt will next be in court for a motions hearing on Dec. 11.
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Newly hired Rifle Police Officer Kalob Foreman refers to the feeling as getting “Monday-morning quarterbacked to death.”