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BLOOMINGTON — A McLean County jury is expected to begin deliberating Thursday afternoon in the first-degree murder trial of Nicholas Compton, who is accused of causing the injury that killed a 3-year-old Normal boy almost two years ago.

Closing arguments in the two-week-old trial are set to begin at 10 a.m.

Testimony ended on Wednesday during what became, at times,  confrontational between a prosecutor and a Minnesota doctor who said the injuries that killed 3-year-old Robbie Cramer could have been accidental.

Dr. Janice Ophoven was called by the defense in the final day of the murder trial of Nicholas Compton. The 24-year-old Normal man is accused of causing an injury that led to peritonitis and the child's death in March 2013.

Ophoven and Assistant State's Attorney Adam Ghrist clashed during her two rounds of questioning by the prosecutor.

The doctor said she could not say for certain if the child's abdominal injury was the result of an accident or was inflicted by another person.

"I am not a judge of what happened or even if the defendant was present," said Ophoven.

The witness acknowledged that the child had at least 30 injuries when he died. She also admitted that the injuries could have been the result of child abuse.

Ghrist took Ophoven through the list of injuries, including an internal injury caused by a blunt force trauma to his body. A significant amount of damage would not have been evident to the boy's body, said Ophoven.

"Doctor, he died," Ghrist responded.

The doctor reviewed medical and police reports but did not see a series of text messages between Compton and the boy's mother, Danielle Fischer. Those messages disclosed falls and injuries Compton reported to Fischer during the three weeks he babysat the child in a home in Normal.

Ghrist asked the doctor about her full-time work as a defense witness in child death cases. He noted that she testified in the recent Heather Lamie case in Livingston County where she suggested a child's fatal trauma was consistent with a fall from a bicycle. Lamie was convicted of murdering her foster daughter.

Ophoven estimated that her firm with three employees has billings of about $500,000 a year. McLean County paid $16,200 for her work on the Compton case, including air fare for Ophoven and her sister who travels with her. 

Ophoven bristled at Ghrist's reference to her "millions of dollars in this retirement venture."

In his testimony as a rebuttal witness for the state, McLean County forensic pathologist Dr. Scott Denton disagreed with Ophoven's opinion that a bruise on the child's back was not the fatal blow. He previously testified that the injury was not consistent with an accident.

The significant numbers of bruises, cuts and burns on the child must be part of the overall assessment of what happened to him, said Denton. 

"You can't look at one injury in a vacuum. Every injury has a story," he said.

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McLean County Courts Reporter

McLean County courts reporter for The Pantagraph.

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