A Lawrence County jury on Monday found a Town Creek man guilty of abusing two children, but found him not guilty on the capital murder charge sought by prosecutors.
Evan Woodrow Berryman, 34, was found guilty of two counts of aggravated child abuse involving Ian Calhoun, 2½, and one count of child abuse involving Ian’s sister. Berryman was found not guilty of capital murder and non-capital murder in connection with Ian’s death on August 4, 2014. Ian’s sister was 3½ years old when Ian died.
Berryman has been held in the Lawrence County Jail since his arrest on March 24, 2016. His sentencing is scheduled for May 25 at 11:30 a.m. in Lawrence County Circuit Court, presiding by Circuit Judge Mark Craig. Berryman’s maximum sentence is 50 years, with a possible 20 years on each count of aggravated child abuse and 10 years for child abuse.
District Attorney Eric Jett said both sides will have an opportunity to make submissions during the sentencing hearing.
He said the family was somewhat disappointed with the verdict.
“I said from day one that this would be a difficult case because of the abuse allegations and Ian’s medical condition,” Jett said. “There is disappointment for the family, but they were grateful the jury found there was abuse in the case.”
He thanked the jurors for their 16 days of service in the courtroom.
“It’s been the longest and toughest case for both parties,” he said. “I appreciate that the jurors were very observant and very deliberative. They had a huge stake in this. The deliberations must have been a Herculean task.”
Jury selection began on the case on March 7 and the jury delivered its verdict at 4:25 p.m. Monday, the third day of deliberations.
Much of the testimony at trial focused on the cause of Ian’s death.
A key prosecution witness, Dr Melissa Peters, from Birmingham Children’s Hospital, said that when Ian arrived by helicopter at the hospital on August 2, 2014, he was unresponsive and appeared to be brain dead. She said her injuries were consistent with child abuse.
A defense witness, Dr John Galaznick, a pediatrician from Northport, said it was impossible to say how the bruising occurred on the child’s body and he said the child had medical conditions which easily bruised him. The defense argued that Ian suffered a head injury when he fell out of bed and hit a wall.
Ian’s sister testified via videotape that she had been abused, and prosecutors showed the jury footage of the girl with a black eye and badly bruised left cheek.
Prosecutors said Berryman was in a relationship with the children’s mother, Chelsea Fike, when bruises on her two children began to appear.
Defense attorneys James Mason and Thomas Di Giulian could not immediately be reached for comment on Monday afternoon.
Fike, 31, has been charged with reckless murder, felony murder and two counts of aggravated child abuse in the death of her son. She was arrested on Dec. 13, 2016, and released on $190,000 bail, according to court records.
Craig said she could go on trial as early as June.