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BLOOMINGTON — The bench trial of a former minister accused of battering his infant daughter will move forward next week, a judge ruled Wednesday after denying a defense motion for an acquittal.

In his denial of a defense request for a directed verdict, Judge Casey Costigan ruled the state has presented sufficient evidence to support its case. The judge cited testimony from two doctors and two Bloomington police detectives related to the child's injuries and statements made by Everly and his wife, Emily.

Defense lawyer Scott Kording argued that the state has failed to link Everly to the injuries. Kording was critical of Detective John Heinlen's work on the case, calling his interview of Everly "the most shameful, pathetic police interrogation I've heard in my career."

Assistant State's Attorney Erika Reynolds argued that of three people who had exclusive access to the baby during the first several weeks of her life, Everly "is the only person who came up with an explanation" for the injuries.

Several questions by the judge to Reynolds during her arguments point to challenges the state faces in its efforts to tie Everly to the alleged abuse.

"What evidence do I have that he did it?" the judge asked.

The prosecutor repeated the state's position that Everly was one of three people who cared for the baby but the only one who admitted he may have unintentionally applied too much pressure on the baby's legs.

In the second of two interviews with police, Everly said he may have laid his hand too forcefully across the baby's legs during a diaper change. Kording has pointed out that a doctor told police the injuries were caused by violent pulling on the child's limbs, an opinion that is at odds with Everly's explanation.

Everly, who worked at Eastview Christian Church in Normal before charges were filed in May, and his wife took their daughter, Olivia, for medical care in late March after they noticed swelling in the infant's left leg. The baby, 2 weeks old at the time, was treated at a Peoria hospital for multiple fractures to both legs.

Two weeks later, an X-ray detected a fracture to the baby's arm. According to medical testimony, the arm injury was present when the child was admitted to the hospital but was not visible until follow-up X-rays were taken.

Costigan granted a defense motion to exclude an opinion offered in testimony Wednesday from pediatric radiologist Dr. Eric Bugaleski related to the broken arm. The doctor testified he initially viewed the X-rays of the arm in April but did not provide an interpretation of the images until he was subpoenaed to testify by the state.

The judge allowed the doctor's opinions on the leg fractures. 

In their initial interviews with Bloomington police detectives, both parents said they could not explain the injuries. In a second interview, Matt Everly told investigators he may have applied to much pressure to the baby's legs during a diaper change but he denied deliberately abusing his daughter.

In her testimony last week, Dr. Channing Petrak with the Pediatric Resource Center in Peoria, said a "violent jerking of the bone" beyond "what happens in the normal course of care" was a likely cause of the injuries. The actions described by Matt Everly were not a plausible explanation for the injuries, said Petrak.

If convicted, Everly faces more than 180 years in prison. 

Kording told Costigan he anticipates "a substantial and vigorous defense" when the trial resumes Dec. 31.  

Photos: 2018 McLean County jail mug shots

Contact Edith Brady-Lunny at (309) 820-3276. Follow her on Twitter: @pg_blunny


McLean County Courts Reporter

McLean County courts reporter for The Pantagraph.

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