Yolo County prosecutors continued to stitch together the events they argue led to the death of newborn Justice Rees in a Knights Landing-area slough in 2015 as testimony continued Tuesday in his mother’s murder trial.
Through the day, witnesses filed into Yolo Superior Judge David Rosenberg’s fifth-floor courtroom: the detectives who sat in on interviews with Samantha Green’s fiancé, Frank Rees, and traced leads that led to Green’s abandoned sport-utility vehicle in a Knights Landing cul-de-sac; the medical staffers who counseled Green before Justice’s birth and those who treated her at a Woodland hospital a day after a cold, distraught Green was found on a levee road near the slough; the Placer County sheriff’s deputy and his search dog who scoured the slough in the darkness for the infant only to return empty-handed.
Green, 24, of Woodland faces second-degree murder charges in her 20-day-old son’s death. Searchers found the infant’s body Feb. 25, 2015, in dense brush near the slough days after Green and the baby failed to show for a family gathering. and after concerned relatives called authorities to report mother and child missing. Prosecutors arguing for the murder charge say Green placed Justice in harm’s way when she wandered into the slough, baby in her arms, in an ill-fated attempt to find Rees.
Investigators say Green and Rees were to meet a female friend in Knights Landing before an argument at a Woodland gas station derailed those plans and Rees left alone. Prosecutors say Green returned to their Woodland home, picked up the baby and set out for Knights Landing.
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Justice Rees was 8 pounds, 13 ounces, when he was born via cesarean in a Roseville hospital nearly three weeks earlier. But trouble signs showed quickly and through his short life. Hospital resident physician Molly Baker testified Tuesday that the baby had drugs in his system – a positive screen for methamphetamine, prosecuting attorney Ryan Couzens said – and testified that child welfare officials had been notified.
In testimony Monday, Marilyn Swanson, grandmother to three of Frank Rees’ older children, testified to seeing Rees and Green appear to be under the influence in the garage of the Rees’ Woodland home with a shivering Justice in Rees’ arms in the days and weeks before the infant’s death.
“Samantha was not in great condition,” Swanson testified Monday. Both parents, Swanson said, “appeared to be on something.”
By the morning of Feb. 25, Green, aching and dehydrated, was being treated at Woodland Memorial Hospital. Physician’s assistant Darryl Turner said he’d received a report that Green was “found wandering by the (slough) and was found by police.”
A check for marijuana use came up clean, but Green said she had used methamphetamine 10 days earlier, Turner testified.
Toxicologist Jonathan Knapp testified later Wednesday that acetone was found in her system. He said acetone can be naturally produced in the body. Prosecutors argued that acetone is also used in the manufacture of methamphetamine.
Turner testified that Green told him she had been sexually assaulted before she swam across Ridge Cut Slough to find help. Investigators had testified at Green’s November preliminary hearing that Green’s account did not hold up, that the Woodland mother passed out, Justice by her side, and that she awakened to find her baby unresponsive.
The trial is to continue Wednesday.