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Clarksville Couple on Trial for Toddler Death

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CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A trial has begun for the mother and stepfather of a toddler who prosecutors say was beaten to death.

The Leaf-Chronicle reports jurors in Clarksville, Tennessee, began hearing testimony on Tuesday in the 2009 death of 23-month-old Keegan Metz. The child's stepfather, 26-year-old Joshua Starner, and mother, 27-year-old Caitlyn Metz, are charged with murder, aggravated child abuse and aggravated child rape. Starner is a former Fort Campbell soldier.

Prosecutor Robert Nash said in his opening statement that the couple's explanation of an accidental fall causing the horrific injuries the boy suffered didn't add up. He said the only explanation is abuse.

"Both parents admitted the morning consisted of Keegan whining, crying, not minding them and being placed in time out and numerous spankings of this child," Nash said. "There was nothing but abuse of this child because he wasn't minding as a 23-month-old, and he was whining. You will discover why."

The attorney for Metz blamed Starner for the boy's death, while Starner's attorney blamed Metz. "Joshua Starner beat and killed Keegan Metz. He snapped. Mr. Starner snapped at some point when Ms. Metz went to the store," said Metz's attorney, Edward Dewerff.

"Caitlyn loved Keegan. She probably made a bad choice in marrying Joshua Starner," Dewerff said. "Mr. Starner was not a good stepdad. He'd spank Keegan and whip him with things. ... She didn't kill that baby. She loved that baby." Starner's attorney, Sheri Phillips, said Metz's actions immediately after the boy's death show that she was responsible.

"She's crying now," Phillips said, but when her son was in the hospital, "she was emotionless, she was concerned about everything going on besides her son." Phillips said Metz called Starner several times while she was shopping at the Fort Campbell commissary.

"She was expecting him to say something was wrong with Keegan," Phillips said. "She knew something was wrong, and she needed to place the blame on Joshua Starner." Several people were called to testify Tuesday including medical examiner Adele Lewis, who said the child died of multiple blunt force trauma.

"He had injuries to his brain, swelling to his brain and bleeding behind his eyes," Lewis said. "It takes a significant amount of force. Maybe a major car wreck or a two or three story fall (to cause an injury like that). ...I can say a child who sustains injuries this severe to their head would immediately become symptomatic in some way. A normal person would know there's something wrong. He would become unconscious, have seizures or have a change in his breathing pattern almost right away."

Testimony in the case was to continue on Wednesday. (Photo Source: Leaf Chronicle)
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