RIPLEY — The lead investigator in the case against Benjamin Taylor testified Thursday the Cottageville man was looking at pornography and listening to music in the same timeframe he is accused of viciously sexually assaulting a 10-month-old girl.
Chief Deputy Ross Mellinger of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office told jurors cellphone records indicate Taylor searched for legal pornography from 2:52 a.m. until about 3:17 a.m. Oct. 3, 2016, before his then girlfriend, Amanda Adkins, found him kneeling over her lifeless infant, Emmaleigh Elizabeth Barringer. The baby regained a pulse in an ambulance but died at a Charleston hospital two days later.
Taylor faces charges of first-degree murder, death of a child by child abuse, first-degree sexual assault and sexual abuse by a guardian, custodian or person in a position of trust to a child. His trial is underway at the Jackson County Courthouse in Ripley.
On Thursday, as Jackson County Prosecutor Katie Franklin continued making her case, jurors heard law enforcement officers’ accounts of Taylor and the investigation.
Mellinger testified that records show Taylor made a 9-second call to a contact listed in his phone as “Home,” at approximately 4:54 a.m.
Testimony in the case has established police had responded to Adkins’ 911 call and arrived at the house around 5 a.m.
After the phone call, Mellinger testified, Taylor received a text message from his brother, who asked him “What’s wrong, man?” around 5:14 a.m. Taylor texted back “Dumb sh--. But don’t worry, I’ll be dead sometime.”
Law enforcement officers who responded to Adkins’ home that morning testified that Taylor had what appeared to be blood on his bare chest and torso and a wet spot on the crotch of his jeans.
Officers said Taylor told them he didn’t know where the blood came from and attempted to show them that there was no blood on his crotch.
In audio recordings of police interviewing Taylor, he tells police he’d brought Emmaleigh downstairs earlier that night because she wasn’t ready to go to sleep. He said he hadn’t noticed the blood on the baby.
He also told officers he once in a while has “episodes” where he blacks out, but that he hadn’t seen a doctor for the problem.
Mellinger also testified that as officers were standing Taylor up to be handcuffed, he said unsolicited, “I knew I was f---ed,” a comment he repeated later when investigators were collecting DNA samples from his body, Mellinger said.
Taylor stood up, put his hands in his pockets and appeared to have been rubbing his groin area from the insides of his pockets, Mellinger said.
Outside of attorney Tim Rosinsky’s opening testimony, jurors have so far heard little of Taylor’s defense for the alleged crime. In cross examination, Rosinsky has asked about an exterior door and window in the basement of the apartment where the alleged assault happened. He’s also questioned officers about whether they’d interviewed neighbors and canvased the neighborhood, which he said was in a “high crime” area.
On Thursday, Rosinsky hinted at some sort of issue with DNA evidence, the results of which have not yet been brought up in testimony. Mellinger said at some point in the investigation, a representative of the state crime lab that was testing evidence in the case told him something that caused Mellinger to further investigate whether Taylor was responsible for the crime.
Mellinger testified at that point, he had a lengthy meeting with officials from the crime lab. After the situation was explained, Mellinger said, he felt as comfortable charging Taylor as he did the night officers arrested him.
“Without any doubt in my mind, your client raped and murdered Emmaleigh Barringer,” Mellinger said.