James D. Church

James D. Church

His trial is slated to take place three and a half years after his daughter died.

James Dewey Church, 42, has a trial date set in 2020 for the accusations he faces in the death of Iris Church. On May 16, Circuit Judge Jennifer Growcock set his trial for March 2, 2020. Church has a pretrial conference scheduled for Feb. 5, 2020. Growcock agreed to call 100 potential jurors.

Church was charged Oct. 7, 2016, for the death of his 8-week-old daughter. He is charged with second-degree murder; abuse or neglect of a child, resulting in death; and two counts of abuse or neglect of a child, serious emotion or physical injury.

Church was originally scheduled to stand trial on April 29, but Church’s defense attorney and prosecutors agreed to push back the trial date so that the defense has more time to gather expert witnesses to testify on Church’s behalf.

“(Church) wants to give me all the time in the world to get this right because he only has one shot at this,” public defender Steven Kellogg said at a hearing in March.

In a probable cause statement, Church allegedly told police officers he was “frustrated” with the baby and admitted to “shaking” her on Oct. 3, 2016, at his Ozark residence.

In the probable cause statement, Church told the investigator he then dropped Iris from approximately chest high onto an inflatable couch.

“He explained he took about two steps and heard a loud thud on the floor,” the statement says. “James stated he turned around and found Iris on the wood floor.”

Church allegedly called 911 and told a dispatcher that the baby was not breathing. She was transported to Cox South Hospital in Springfield.

“The ambulance crew later reported Iris had coded multiple times in the ambulance and at the hospital and had to regain a heartbeat,” the probable statement said.

Court records show Kellogg has been acting as Church’s defense attorney since Jan. 29, of this year. This marks the third time that the case has been continued, in part, to allow attorneys more time to obtain medical records.

“We had a number of medical records, but as I kind of dug through them I realized we didn’t have nearly as many as I thought we did, and it took a while,” Kellogg said.

The defense obtained medical records from two different medical providers, including CoxHealth in Springfield.

Kellogg explained that the defense has retained three expert witnesses: a pediatrician, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon and a pathologist.

“They are all over the country. Nobody is local,” Kellogg said.

At the time Iris Church died, she had broken ribs, which a doctor indicated had happened as a result of previous injuries, not from being shaken and dropped that day. There was “significant” bruising around her torso with fingerprint bruises visible. According to the police investigator’s probable cause statement, hospital staff said there was “severe traumatic brain injury and a skull fracture.” There was internal bleeding from a right ovarian laceration with hemorrhage, and the doctor removed the ovary.

Iris Church died Oct. 6, 2016, at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

Church is being held in the Christian County Jail on $500,000 cash-only bond.

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