Opening statements began Thursday in the Dakota Miller trial, the 24-year-old Hornell man accused of beating and killing his girlfriend’s 17-month-old baby.
Steuben County District Attorney Brooks Baker told jurors it was a mother’s worst nightmare and that Ian Maniske-Huff was “beaten to death, beaten beyond death… beaten from the soles of his feet to the top of his head” pointing a finger to Dakota.
Baker spoke in graphic detail about what intentional damage was done to the infant’s body for over two hours by the 5’8″, 250 lb man.
The prosecution said Codie Baker, Ian’s mother, came home from a 1:00 P.M. – 10:00 P.M. shift at Walmart on Nov. 25, 2015, made dinner, and went to bed. When she heard Ian breathing uncomfortably, she tried to wake him up, and when she realized she couldn’t, she screamed.
She then wrapped him in a blanket and ran to the nearby emergency room at St. James Mercy Hospital and arrived just before midnight.
The defense opened its statement by saying Codie lost custody of her two children, Ian and her daughter who was three years old at the time, in the past and the only way she was able to regain custody was if she made sure Dakota would not be alone with Ian.
The defense argued that this is why Louis, Codie’s father, moved into their apartment, and that Louis did not live up to his obligation.
The first witness to testify was the registered nurse at the St. James Mercy Hospital emergency room who first examined Ian. She said she saw bruising, semi-circles, and circles throughout his body, and that his diaper was saturated with urine and a little blood.
At this point, she says Codie was distraught, hovering over her baby and that Dakota was calm away from them.
A picture of Ian was shown to the jury showing his injuries, plus his left arm hooked up to IV and his mouth covered with a breathing tube.
In cross-examination, the defense said Dakota mentioned to the medical staff that night that the baby consumed “bad ham” and that there was additional mention of Codie’s three-year-old daughter rough-playing with Ian.
The RN responded to the defense, “The baby could have eaten bad ham, but it didn’t cause those injuries.”
The second witness to the stand was Hornell Police Department’s only investigator, Thomas Aini. He was called to the scene and arrived at St. James around 1:00 A.M. as a helicopter landed to transport baby Ian to Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester.
Investigator Aini said he knew Dakota before the incident and a week prior, Dakota walked by the investigator’s house, waved, and said, “Hi Investigator Aini!”
When at the hospital, the investigator said, “Miller looked at me. I looked at him. He never again would look me in the eye.”
Aini provided the jury with a photo he took himself of baby Ian at the hospital, similar to the one shown during the RN’s testimony. He said based on his experience, it looked like the baby suffered bite marks.
He also provided an aerial map of the distance between the Hornell apartment (shared between Dakota, Louis, Codie, Codie’s three-year-old daughter, and Ian) and the hospital which was about 1,200 feet away.
Aini said this case was too much to handle for himself, so he requested New York State Police investigators which he received. The two potential scenes in question were Codie’s Hornell residence, plus the residence of Melissa Miller (Dakota’s mother) and Robert Preston (Melissa Miller’s boyfriend).
All five of these individuals were in question according to Aini including Codie’s three-year-old daughter. Dakota, Codie, and Louis were interviewed at the Hornell Police Department from 3:00 A.M. until 3:00 P.M. the following day.
The investigator did not take Codie’s word for her being at work during the incident and confirmed with Walmart that she was indeed there by looking at her time card and community security cameras throughout Hornell.
In cross-examination, there was a heated exchange between the defense and Aini in which Dakota’s lawyer said, “I know you want to get out the dental impressions were taken.” Aini then said individuals were taken to a dentist’s office for their dental impressions.
The third witness was a woman who also works at the emergency room and handles patient registration when patients first walk in. She saw Codie holding the baby and Dakota next to her upon arrival. She said once they were inside an examination room, Dakota was pacing and sweating.
The fourth witness was the security guard at the hospital. He says he saw Dakota go into the bathroom for two to three seconds and come out wiping his mouth, indicating possible vomitting, with his face red in color.
There are a total of 12 jurors with four alternates (12 men, four women) and DA Baker says this is just the beginning for them.
“Let the witnesses testify to what we expect them to testify to… I think things are moving along and we’re progressing,” DA Baker said. “My expectations will go through next week, and there’s an awful lot more to show the jury before this case is over. Tomorrow, there are some law enforcement witnesses, some more medical witnesses. We’re only in the investigative process in showing the jury what’s going to happen in this case. The meat of our case will probably be next week.”
DA Baker also saying that he wants the nature of the case to show that the investigation was not pointed towards only Dakota but to everyone involved. He adds this was unlike to how the defense was trying to imply bad blood between Investigator Aini and Dakota.
Court will resume on Friday at 9:00 A.M.