Laila Marie Daniel is the 2-year-old girl who died in state foster care. The woman who was caring for her, Jennifer Rosenbaum, is charged in the murder of the child.
Photo: HANDOUT
Photo: HANDOUT

GBI doctor: 2-year-old Laila died from blunt-force trauma, not choking

Two-year-old Laila Daniel died from multiple blunt-force injuries to her abdomen that caused extensive internal bleeding, a GBI medical examiner testified Monday. And the child’s autopsy revealed no signs she had choked, according to Dr. Lora Darrisaw. 

“I can say in Laila’s autopsy, based upon everything that I did, it’s most consistent with the trauma having taken place around an hour before the symptoms,” Darrisaw told the courtroom. 

The trial for the former foster parents accused in Laila’s November 2015 death, Jennifer and Joseph Rosenbaum, entered its third week Monday. Jennifer Rosenbaum faces charges of malice and felony murder, child cruelty, aggravated assault and aggravated battery. Joseph Rosenbaum is charged with second-degree murder, accused of leaving Laila in his wife’s care when he allegedly knew she was abusing the child.

7/11/2019 -- McDonough, Georgia -- Joseph Rosenbaum (center) speaks with his wife Jennifer (right) during their trial in front of Henry County Chief Judge Brian Amero at the Henry County Superior courthouse, Thursday, July 11, 2019. (Alyssa Pointer/alyssa.pointer@ajc.com)
Photo: Alyssa Pointer

The Rosenbaums took in Laila and her older sister, Millie, in July 2015. Fourth months later, Laila was dead and Millie showed signs of also being abused, investigators have testified. 

Darrisaw, a forensic pathologist, told the court she has completed more than 1,200 pediatric autopsies, including other high-profile cases. In May, she testified during the trial of Christopher McNabb and Cortney Bell, Newton County parents convicted in the death of 2-week-old Caliyah McNabb.

On Monday, Darrisaw, the final witness for prosecutors, testified approximately four hours on her autopsy findings regarding Laila’s death. She found dozens of injuries — including broken bones, bruises and lacerations — during the autopsy. But it was blows to Laila’s abdomen strong enough to split her pancreas in half and cause a laceration on her liver that ultimately caused her death, Darrisaw said. 

The GBI’s findings contradict claims by Jennifer Rosenbaum that Laila choked on a chicken nugget on Nov. 17, 2015. Rosenbaum told investigators she then attempted the Heimlich maneuver and CPR on the child, who died. Responding paramedics noticed Laila was bruised from head to toe. Medical staff members at Piedmont Henry Hospital saw the injuries and called police.

The Rosenbaums’ defense attorney, Corinne Mull, has said Laila’s death was accidental and the result of failed attempts at lifesaving measures.

RELATED: Child abuse doctor says girls’ injuries prove physical abuse

ALSO: The short and tragic life of Laila Daniel

“When I conducted the autopsy, I didn’t find any food particles in the trachea,” Darrisaw said. “Normally if one eats shortly before death, we will be able to identify the food itself because it hasn’t been digested yet.”

Mull has said Laila and Millie were “rough and tumble” children who injured themselves, including by jumping on a bottom bunk bed and at gymnastics. Darrisaw said some of Laila’s injuries could have been accidental. But the injuries were too numerous, covering her body too extensively, to have been the result of typical falls, Darrisaw said. 

On Laila’s body, Darrisaw noted 22 injuries in the head and neck region, 17 injuries to her legs, 12 to her arms, and 11 injuries to her torso, she testified. The injuries were in various stages of healing, Darrisaw said. Laila also had suffered a broken arm, a broken rib, and damage to her diaphragm, the doctor said. 

Jennifer Rosenbaum told investigators Laila’s arms and legs flailed when she allegedly choked and her eyes rolled back. Darrisaw said Monday the seizure-like systems were the result of the child’s internal injuries. 

“It’s not because of chicken,” Darrisaw said. “It’s because she had abdominal trauma.”

The trial is expected to resume Tuesday morning, when the defense will call its first witness. 

Authorities claim 2-year-old Laila Daniel was hit so hard her pancreas ruptured.

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