Attorneys for a local man charged with capital murder in the death of his 5-month-old son last month argued for their client to be released on bail Wednesday during a lengthy hearing in the Garland County Detention Center courtroom.
Cody Timothy Webb, 35, who lists a Bellaire Drive address, has remained in custody on a zero bond since his arrest on Dec. 21 following the death of his son, Hatcher, on Dec. 17 while under his care. Following an over three-hour hearing, Garland County Circuit Court Judge Ralph Ohm took the bond request under advisement, but didn't rule Wednesday.
The child's death was reportedly ruled a homicide on Dec. 20 in what was initially described as a preliminary autopsy report by Dr. Charles Kokes, medical examiner at the state crime lab. A probable cause affidavit submitted by Hot Springs police alleged Webb got "frustrated and annoyed" due to Hatcher crying and caused the injuries in trying to get him to stop.
The first hour and 15 minutes Wednesday involved in-chamber discussions between prosecutors and Webb's attorneys regarding several defense motions, the primary one being a request for a second independent autopsy which, Ohm said, "they kind of got worked out" by ironing out details of the logistics of where and when it would occur.
Prosecutors also filed an amended charge against Webb adding an enhancement because the incident that allegedly led to his son's death happened while his daughter, 2, was present in the home. If convicted, the enhancement could add up to 10 years to Webb's sentence, to run consecutive to whatever other sentence he receives.
If convicted of capital murder, Webb could face the death penalty or life in prison. Prosecutors also requested and were granted a court order barring Webb from any contact with his wife, Heather, or his daughter, based on the enhancement. It was noted the two are in the process of divorcing and there are custody issues so the no-contact order may have to be reviewed at some point.
In her argument against releasing Webb on bond, Chief Deputy Prosecutor Kara Petro submitted the preliminary autopsy as her first exhibit, but Webb's attorney, Erin Cassinelli, of Little Rock, argued it was "a very odd document" and that preliminary autopsy reports "usually have more information than this."
It was finally agreed the report was better described as the "medical examiner's case feedback" and the full autopsy report has not been completed yet. Petro noted the report indicates the cause of death was "blunt force head and chest injuries" which were "not consistent with any kind of accident" and that they maintain Webb "with extreme indifference for human life knowingly caused" the death of his son.
Petro also noted Webb's alleged statement to police that he was home alone with the victim and his other child at the time of the incident and that he became "annoyed and frustrated" by his son crying.
In his statement, Webb reportedly said he "may have picked the child up quickly 2-3 times, pulled him closely into his body much harder than what he thought 3 or 4 times, and forcefully rocked him for approximately 10 minutes."
Dr. Jonathan Arden, a forensic pathologist and retired medical examiner hired by the defense, testified initially via Zoom, but the feed frequently cut out and he was eventually switched to a speakerphone.
Arden said the only two documents he had seen, the affidavit and the "medical examiner's feedback form," did not include "sufficient information" to accurately conclude a cause or manner of death and "lacked any medical details or specificity of how the injuries were caused."
He said it would require a "microscopic examination" and other tests that "could take several months to provide adequate information." He argued a medical opinion could not have been rendered in three days or even a week and to issue one was "not valid at all."
Arden said there was evidence of rib fractures but the age of the fractures has not been established, noting if they were older they may not have been involved in the child's death at all and that they also could have been the result of CPR efforts to revive the child.
He also argued that previous injuries, including head trauma, sustained by the child may have contributed to his condition during the incident with Webb, noting there can sometimes be "substantial delays" before the injuries manifest themselves.
Cassinelli asked if the fact there were no external injuries and "no impact site" on the victim had any bearing and Arden said it does, but conceded that an impact with a soft object could have caused the head trauma and not left visible injuries.
Arden said the findings reached by Kokes were "merely speculative" and there was "no evidence to reach a criminal conclusion." Under cross-examination by Prosecutor Michelle Lawrence, Arden conceded he has not seen the full case file, any medical records from the hospital or the full statement from Webb and that he couldn't offer an opinion on the cause or manner of death.
In other testimony, Cody Webb's father, Dr. Timothy Webb, discussed his son's background, including their move to Hot Springs in the late 1980s when Cody Webb was "about 2" and that he graduated from Lakeside High School and the University of Arkansas.
He also testified about their charity work in Kenya, which involved taking multiple trips there, including one where Cody Webb stayed for about three months. He testified how it was "a holy experience to me" and part of it was "bringing people to Christ while we're there."
At one point, Petro objected and questioned the relevance of Timothy Webb's work in Kenya to his son's bond hearing. Ohm agreed, noting, "No one is questioning what you did there and I'm very supportive of all that, but what did (Cody Webb) do while there?"
Timothy Webb said his son worked in the pharmacy in Kenya, helping to distribute medications and working "crowd control." He testified after running a TCBY outlet for nine years, his son later became an EMT, then a paramedic, for LifeNet. "After his first child, he had an epiphany" and decided to go into medicine.
On the issue of his son being released on bond, Timothy Webb said he could come and live with him or his uncle and that he already has two potential employers lined up who submitted letters of their intent to hire him.
He said his son has "multi-generational" ties to Hot Springs on both sides of his family. "I believe my son is innocent and has no reason to go anywhere," he said, noting his son turned himself in and gave a full statement to police.
Timothy Webb also testified about the previous injuries sustained by his grandson, including an incident on Sept. 16 when he was with his mother and reportedly in an unsecured car seat and fell off a kitchen counter. He said the child had brain hemorrhaging from that incident and then the week after his release from the hospital he sustained another injury at his daycare, where he was struck by a falling vacuum cleaner and had to be taken to the hospital again.
On cross examination, Petro asked Timothy Webb if he had any concerns about his son's temper and he said, "None." Then she asked if he had purchased a book, "How to Stop Losing Your S - - - With Your Kids," and he said he didn't recall that.
Ohm cut off further testimony shortly after noon Wednesday, noting they had previously agreed to a three-hour hearing and were running long.
He said they could reschedule, but attorney Tony Brasuell, also representing Webb, instead submitted the names of six witnesses that would have testified including Webb's longtime pastor, friends "who would testify about his compassion for children" and a fellow employee at LifeNet who would have testified "how he was calm under pressure."
At the end of the hearing, Ohm set a trial date for Aug. 8-19, setting aside two weeks. A hearing on the admissibility of his statement to police is set for March 2 and Ohm said he will likely rule on the bond issue before then.