Tuesday, May 07, 2002

Jury hears tape in child-death case

By Janice Morse, jmorse@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — When first questioned, Kevin Charles Miles denied causing any harm to his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter before she died of internal bleeding.

        But when Middletown police confronted him with medical evidence that Courtney Centers had died not from illness, but from injury, his story changed.

        “I believe my temper may have gotten out of hand,” he said during a two-hour interrogation after Courtney's New Year's Day death. Mr. Miles admitted he had struck the girl's stomach to discipline her the previous day.

        A jury of seven women and five men listened to an audiotape of that interview Monday during the first day of Mr. Miles' trial in Butler County Common Pleas Court. Mr. Miles, 27, of Woodlawn, is charged with murder and felony child endangering.

        The girl's mother, Tiana Centers, 20, has been sentenced to four years in prison for permitting child abuse; prosecutors have subpoenaed her as a possible witness in Mr. Miles' trial.

        On the tape, Mr. Miles said he gave Courtney a “whack” or a “swat” with an open hand on her abdominal area the day before she died. He said became angry after discovering she hid a sandwich he had bought for her and also hid some vomit. But Mr. Miles also said he hadn't hit her hard. “It was a tap,” he said.

        Later, as questioning continued, Mr. Miles conceded that he had struck Courtney hard, and it partially knocked the wind out of her.

        “Oh Courtney! ... If I hit her that one time and it killed her, I'm so sorry,” he sobbed.

        Mr. Miles said he was reluctant to get medical treatment for her when a neighbor found the girl limp, cold and pale because, “I really felt she would just get better.”

        In his opening statement, Butler County Prosecutor Robin Piper said several factors point to Mr. Miles' guilt and repeated abuse of the girl. A neighbor testified that Mr. Miles wanted to finish drinking a beer before getting medical attention for Courtney.

        Medical evidence showed the girl suffered a head injury caused by a blow, Mr. Piper said, along with dozens of bruises on her body and damage to several internal organs, most notably a gash that nearly divided her liver in two.

        Mr. Miles' lawyer, Jim Cooper, said his client isn't guilty of murder because he never meant for the child to suffer serious physical harm or death.

        “He didn't realize that what he was doing would result in her passing away,” Mr. Cooper said.


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