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In murder trial of father, tearful mom recalls seeing her battered, dead son

Shantil Galloway, left, the mother of Chavon Robinson, testifies Tuesday in the trial of Chauncey Robinson, who is accused of the first-degree murder of his 22-month-old son. Prosecutors say Robinson beat the Chavon to death during a February visit.

ATOYIA DEANS | Times

Shantil Galloway, left, the mother of Chavon Robinson, testifies Tuesday in the trial of Chauncey Robinson, who is accused of the first-degree murder of his 22-month-old son. Prosecutors say Robinson beat the Chavon to death during a February visit.

TAMPA — Shantil Galloway wiped away tears as she described the injuries to her 22-month-old son, Chavon, who died after nearly two weeks in the custody of his father last year.

Chauncey Robinson, 27, went on trial Tuesday. He faces life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated child abuse.

Galloway described the bandage on the boy's head, and bruises and scratches to his hand when she saw him dead in a bed at St. Joseph's Hospital on Feb. 13.

The last time she saw him alive was when Robinson picked him up on Feb. 1. Chavon Robinson had no injuries when he left, she said.

"He was happy, playing around," Galloway said.

What happened after Robinson took Chavon, a period that spans 13 days, is crucial to determining whether he is responsible for his son's death.

Chavon was so badly injured that his collarbone was broken "completely in half," Assistant State Attorney Dawn Myers told jurors. He also had broken ribs, a bruised chest and internal injuries. An autopsy showed that the bones were healing incorrectly because they hadn't been set properly.

Yet it was a blow to the head that killed Chavon, causing his brain to swell and his organs to shut down, Myers said. These injuries were inflicted, she said, when Chavon was in Robinson's custody.

The broken ribs and collarbone were the basis for one count of child abuse, which Myers said happened between Feb. 1 and Feb. 12. The second count of abuse and the murder charge stem from injuries inflicted the day Chavon died, she said.

Robinson's attorneys, however, say Chavon's injuries may have been inflicted before Robinson had custody of him. The collarbone and ribs could have been broken three weeks before Chavon's death, attorney Christopher Watson said. The attorneys also pointed out that Chavon had been taken to the hospital six times.

Robinson told Tampa police last year that he found Chavon, who had asthma, having a seizure in bed at his N Lincoln Avenue apartment. He and his girlfriend, Tina Tillman, told police that Robinson placed Chavon on the floor and performed CPR when the toddler stopped breathing. Tillman called 911, then phoned Galloway when Chavon didn't respond.

Galloway said she had feuded with Tillman several times, including that day she tried to get Chavon from Robinson.

Watson said Robinson was distraught at the news of his son's death and cooperated, giving detectives complete access to his apartment.

But Galloway recalled that Robinson looked shaken when she saw him later at the hospital.

"He said, 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry,' " Galloway said. When she asked why, she said Robinson told her "because he was in my care."

Robinson has an extensive criminal record that includes at least 15 arrests before Chavon's death, state records show. He served two months in prison in 2006 for dealing cocaine, according to state prison records.

Chavon's last visit with his father was also his longest. On the day before Chavon died, Galloway said that Robinson refused to return his son for a doctor's appointment, telling her he needed to toughen him up.

Watson said Chavon's death will raise more questions than the evidence can answer.

"You'll learn what caused the death, but you won't learn beyond a shadow of a doubt who killed Chavon," Watson said.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this story.

In murder trial of father, tearful mom recalls seeing her battered, dead son 12/08/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 8, 2009 11:40pm]
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