Blow split toddler's organs, court hears
Auckland toddler JJ Lawrence was killed by a blow so forceful it split his liver and pancreas in two, the High Court has been told.
Joel Loffley, 29, the boyfriend of JJ's mother Josephine Lawrence, is accused of murdering two-year-old James Joseph Ruhe Lawrence at his home in suburban Orakei last November.
Crown prosecutor Nick Webby told the High Court in Auckland today an autopsy found the toddler also had cannabis in his system when he died.
JJ had previously suffered two broken arms after being left alone with Loffley, Webby said.
In opening the Crown case, Webby said Loffley and JJ's mother had argued on the morning of November 14, 2011.
JJ's father James Ruhe was in prison and there was tension over his access to his family and he had made threats against Loffley.
Lawrence went to leave the house but Loffley told her: "Leave that boy with me. That boy's mine today."
When she returned she found Loffley in the shower with JJ, who was crouched down crying with a soiled nappy.
Loffley told her JJ had fallen off the bed and hit his head.
He put JJ to bed while his mother, unaware of the distress her son was already in, went to her room and watched a movie.
Loffley went out with his brother and came back about 11am.
Loffley "discovered" JJ not breathing and an ambulance was called, Webby said.
A visiting electrician tried to give JJ mouth-to-mouth resuscitation but it quickly became apparent that the little boy was already dead.
Neighbours reported hearing Lawrence screaming: "What have you done? What have you done? I hate you. I hate you."
Loffley, a powerfully-built Maori man, sat impassively between two security guards as the case against him was detailed.
His lawyer Roger Chambers said Loffley's case was that he had not hit or otherwise assaulted JJ.
Chambers said it was "not him in that household" who had hurt the boy.
An autopsy found the blow to JJ's stomach was "extraordinarily" forceful and had pushed his organs right back onto his spine where they split, Webby said.
The massive trauma was "non-survivable" due to the significant internal bleeding.
Webby said though it was clear JJ had died of an injury, Loffley was the only one to suggest to police how it could have happened.
Police intercepted calls between Loffley and Lawrence in which the accused blamed Lawrence for the death and suggested she may have hit her son with a bladed instrument.
Loffley was undergoing an anger management course at the time of the death.
Police found a document at the house in Lawrence's hand where she wrote about the effects of "abuse".
"I'm scared for my son...scared he's going to get hurt and get taken away," she wrote.
A jury of five women and seven men were empanelled before Justice Patrick Keane.
The trial is expected to last three weeks.