Ten-year-old says she heard 'Karly' being spanked with spoon before she died
Ten-year-old Kaitlyn Field entered a Benton County courtroom Friday morning, sobbing and clutching two stuffed animals. She was called to testify in the trial of her father, Shawn Field, for the murder of 3-year-old Karla "Karly" Sheehan.
Kaitlyn testified to seeing Karly's bruises and to hearing her being spanked with a spoon by Field on the night before she died.
Karly was the daughter of Sarah Brill Sheehan, who was Field's girlfriend at the time. On Friday, June 3, 2005, Sarah Sheehan found Karly at Field's house unresponsive and not breathing. Paramedics were unable to revive Karly and she was pronounced dead at the hospital. Field has been charged with multiple counts of aggravated murder, among other charges in the case.
Friday was the sixth day of testimony in the case.
Kaitlyn kept her head lowered throughout her testimony, and seemed to shield her face with her right hand. She was a little nervous, she told deputy district attorney Joan Demarest. She seemed to relax a bit when Demarest asked her to introduce her two stuffed bunnies.
"This one's Flower, and this one's Thumper," she said.
Kaitlyn told the jury she liked both Sarah Sheehan and Karly, whom she remembered well.
"She was adorable," Kaitlyn said.
On Thursday, June 2, 2005, Kaitlyn said she came home from Hoover School, where she was in third grade. She found her dad and Karly at home alone.
"Karly had the bruise," she said, referring to a large bruise that covered Karly's left eye. "It was like red at the skin around her eye."
That night as Kaitlyn went to bed, Field brought Karly in to say good night.
"I was at my top bunk, and I hugged her good night," she said. Then her dad took Karly into another room, closing Kaitlyn's bedroom door.
"After you went to bed, what happened?" Demarest asked.
"I heard noises."
"Like spanking noises," Kaitlyn said.
After further questioning she said she recognized the sound as being made by a spoon. Demarest asked how she knew it was a spoon she heard.
" 'Cause I know what a spoon sounds like," Kaitlyn said.
The prosecution has suggested that two large kitchen spoons, found in a garbage bag at the Field house, were instruments Field used to hit Karly, causing extensive bruising. Both spoons had broken handles.
Forensic scientist Susan Horman from the crime lab in Portland, testified later that one of the spoons had Shawn Field's DNA on the handle and Karly's DNA and hair on the rounded end.
Kaitlyn also testified that she had seen Karly jump off the bunk bed, landing on her knees. She said Karly might have hurt herself after jumping, but she didn't remember her crying. Kaitlyn did, however, hear Karly scream that night when she was taking a bath.
"Did you see Karly pray Thursday night?" Demarest asked.
"Yes," Kaitlyn said, "She had her knees on the floor and put her hands together, and I think she closed her eyes."
Defense attorneys Clark Willes and Daniel Koenig declined to cross-examine Kaitlyn.
How and when Kaitlyn would testify had been the subject of much contention between prosecution and defense. Thursday afternoon the trial came to a dead halt when Demarest called Kaitlyn as a witness. Koenig objected to calling Kaitlyn because she had been in counseling and he had repeatedly requested that notes of those sessions be provided by the prosecution, and they had not been.
According to Demarest, no counseling that Kaitlyn received has been at the request of the prosecution and so Demarest had no access to any notes.
Judge Janet Holcomb, who is presiding over the case, ruled that no counseling notes had to be provided to the defense.
Then the defense objected to Kaitlyn's preferred attire. She wanted to wear a wig, sunglasses and a hat while testifying, and had in fact arrived at the courthouse Thursday wearing those items. The defense objected to anything in the nature of a disguise or anything that made it look like Kaitlyn was afraid of her father.
Her attire was the subject of a pretrial motion as well as prolonged argument in pretrial hearings. Holcomb had allowed for some measure of comfort for Kaitlyn, as is common when children are asked to testify. But she had not yet ruled on any specific items of dress. Holcomb had, however, required that Kaitlyn's eyes be clearly visible by the jury.
"This is a circus act," said Koenig. "She has a blond wig, a Rastafarian knit cap. It's a mockery of the seriousness of these events."
He added that the defendant had a constitutional right to confront any witnesses against him.
"The right to confrontation has nothing to do with the color of hair," Demarest retorted.
Holcomb asked prosecution and defense to resolve the issue with Kaitlyn. After conferring with Demarest, the 10-year-old agreed to testify Friday morning without any special items of apparel but accompanied by her stuffed animals.
Kaitlyn testified for almost two hours without a break. She left the courtroom with what looked like a smile of relief.