WARREN - When Joy Hodge was questioned by detectives within an hour after her 15-month-old daughter was found dead in her crib, the 29-year-old mother acknowledged bruises on the toddler's body.
Hodge offered no explanation of how the bruises got there. She only said she had given young A'nana Brantley a cup filled with juice the morning of Sept. 6, 2011, and the child smiled at her.
The mother of four told Warren police Detective Wayne Mackey the next time she checked on A'nana was about 1:30 p.m. that day. The child was dead.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Warren police Detective Wayne Mackey, right, points to the defendant, Joy Denise Hodge of Warren, on Tuesday in the first day of testimony before Trumbull County Common Pleas Judge W. Wyatt McKay. Hodge faces charges of murder and child endangering and more than 15 years in prison.
''I have nothing to hide,'' Hodge said on a video recording of the interview played in court Tuesday. Hodge, who has remained in Trumbull County Jail the last 14 months, faces charges of murder and child endangering and more than 15 years in prison.
Paramedics testified Tuesday during the first day of testimony in the murder trial that A'nana was cold to the touch and already stiff when they arrived. The ambulance crew said they noticed Hodge at the house and that she was relatively calm under the circumstances.
After seeing the bruising, Michael Nelson, who works for MedStar Ambulance Service, said he asked others to leave the upstairs bedroom at Hodge's home on Transylvania Street S.E., and he and his partner called police and started preserving what they saw as a crime scene.
A jury of nine men and three woman was seated Monday in the courtroom of Judge W. Wyatt McKay and heard opening statements and early testimony in the case Tuesday.
Assistant county prosecutor Diane Barber told the panel they will hear later in the week how Trumbull County Coroner Dr. Humphrey Germaniuk ruled homicide after discovering multiple blunt traumatic injuries on the head, face and neck along with a lacerated liver.
Barber also said Hodge was interviewed several times and gave conflicting stories about what happened during the 24 hours leading up to when the girl was found dead.
The toddler's father is expected to testify about getting a call early in the morning of Sept. 6, 2011, when Hodge said she was thinking of taking the child to a hospital.
Hodge told Mackey at one point that she enlisted the help of a baby-sitter after a neighborhood party the day before the death. Barber said it was discovered later that Hodge and several girlfriends went to a karaoke night at a local bar.
A witness and neighbor of Hodge's testified Tuesday that the group smoked marijuana and drank before continuing the festivities at the bar.
Detectives found out later that Hodge recalled later going to an appointment at a dentist's office - something she didn't reveal at first.
Another witness scheduled for this afternoon is expected to describe his interview with Hodge and more inconsistencies leading up to a polygraph exam that was unstipulated and not introduced as evidence in the case.
Hodge's attorney Matt Pentz asked jurors to be patient and listen to all the evidence in what he described as a ''circumstantial case.''
''It's a disturbing case. But don't let sympathy or anger guide you,'' Pentz said. ''She may not be the perfect mother and may have given inconsistent statements. But there is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt.''