BLOOMINGTON — Nicholas Compton told police he knew 3-year-old Robbie Cramer didn't like him, but he denied causing an injury that was later determined to have caused the child's death.
A McLean County jury on Monday heard about 2½ hours of Compton's March 2013 police interview, as the second week of his trial on first-degree murder charges opened.
"He's kind of iffy. He's a rare person. He's not fond of me, I can promise you that," the 24-year-old suspect told Normal police Detective Jeremy Melville hours after the child was brought to the hospital, unresponsive.
After about an hour, Melville took a break from the interview and returned with news for Compton that the child had died. Compton broke down in sobs, telling the detective, "This has got to be a bad dream. This could not have happened. It can't be true."
Compton, who at the time was living in the basement of a home in Normal with the boy and they boy's mother, Danielle Fischer, denied he beat the child.
"I would never raise a hand to a child — ever," Compton told Melville.
Still, Compton admitted that Fischer questioned the growing number of bruises that started to appear on the child in the month the couple lived together. In a phone call from the hospital, Fischer asked her boyfriend if he had hit her son.
"She said, 'This kid looks like he gets beat.' But he didn't," Compton said in the videotaped interview.
Hospital staff and police who saw the boy also questioned injuries they saw on the child's body. Some injuries, like a deep burn on his check, were obvious, but others were seen only after an autopsy; more than 30 injuries were documented, according to earlier testimony.
The trial will resume on Wednesday when an expert for the defense will testify.
In earlier testimony, forensic pathologist Dr. Scott Denton testified a bruise on the child's back caused an internal injury that led to his death from peritonitis.
To support his denials that he hurt the boy, Compton said his grandmother's service as a foster parent made him sympathetic to abused children.
As Compton's 11 hours in the police interview room drew to a close and he was arrested for child endangerment, Melville said police had settled on Compton as the person who caused the boy's fatal injury.
"We're not looking for the who. Everything points to you," said the detective.
The state closed its case late Monday after the interview was shown to the jury.
Judge Charles Feeney denied a motion from defense lawyer Ron Lewis for a directed verdict where the trial would end if the judge found that the state's evidence could not support the charges.
Feeney said the state's evidence shows that Cramer "was killed by a very hard blow to his back and it was such tremendous force that it tore open his intestines."