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Deputy's Account Could Aid Defense in Tot's Meth Fatality

August 20, 2003|Hanah Cho | Times Staff Writer

In the murder trial of a woman accused of allowing her infant to ingest a lethal dose of methamphetamine, possibly through drug-tainted breast milk, a Riverside County sheriff's deputy testified Tuesday that he saw a baby bottle near the boy's body.

Amy Prien, 31, is charged with killing 3-month-old Jacob Wesley Smith by allowing him to swallow the stimulant in January 2002.

Deputy Bryan Appelhoff, the first officer to arrive at Prien's Mead Valley home, told jurors that a baby bottle filled with what appeared to be formula was on the bed, above Jacob's head.

Appelhoff's testimony could bolster defense claims that Prien had not been breast-feeding her son around the time of his death. The bottle has since been lost or destroyed, and Prien's defense attorney argued that the bottle could have cleared her of the murder charge.

The bottle's disappearance points to a possible obstruction of justice by law officers, defense attorney Stephen Yagman said after testimony ended Tuesday.

Supervising Deputy Dist. Atty. Allison Nelson said the bottle's misplacement is not a significant piece of evidence.

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