Alleged baby assault case goes to jury

Former Marine accused of seriously injuring daughter

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

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After hearing six days of testimony, jurors will return Wednesday morning to take up deliberations on whether a Vancouver man seriously assaulted his 5-month-old daughter.

The prosecution contends that Ryan Buck Kannegaard was stressed over financial and marital problems and snapped, assaulting his daughter so severely that doctors said she nearly died. The defense argues that Kannegaard is a loving father whose 3-year-old stepdaughter caused the infant’s injuries when she jumped on her.

The 26-year-old former U.S. Marine is charged in Clark County Superior Court with first-degree assault of a child and first-degree criminal mistreatment.

Both attorneys agree that it’s unknown exactly what happened.

That’s a problem if you want to convict Kannegaard, defense attorney David McDonald said in his closing arguments Tuesday.

“Do you really know what happened?” he asked jurors. “Do you have an abiding belief?”

Baby Phoenix’s injuries resulted after her mother, Lydia Kannegaard, left her home with Ryan Kannegaard the evening of Nov. 2, 2009. When Lydia Kannegaard arrived home around midnight, she saw her baby in her crib, blue, limp and coughing up blood, prosecutors said.

The mom rushed her to the hospital, where doctors concluded the infant suffered a perforated bowel, a possible lacerated spleen and a broken wrist.

Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Scott Jackson said in his closing argument that Kannegaard’s actions were those of a guilty man: He didn’t rush the baby to the hospital or consult family or friends about the injuries. Instead, he tried to feed Phoenix and then put her to bed, never seeking any medical attention, Jackson said.

“A reasonable person would have done so. The defendant did not on this day,” Jackson said.

Jackson told jurors that Kannegaard and his wife were suffering financially in the economic downturn, and that day, Lydia Kannegaard had told him she wanted a separation.

The deputy prosecutor said all the stress came to a head that night.

But McDonald pointed out that his client has no history of violence, referencing several friends who testified on his client’s behalf. If anything, all of his friends and family describe him as gentle and soft-spoken, he said.

“Not one person can come here and say this man is violent,” the defense attorney said. “But one day he supposedly goes into a tailspin and becomes a Tasmanian devil? Does that make sense? No.”

Regardless of whether it was shown exactly how Phoenix was assaulted, Jackson urged jurors to consider the case as a whole to find Kannegaard guilty. The evidence, Jackson said: Kannegaard had the intent, he didn’t treat his daughter’s injuries and several doctors and nurses thought the injuries were suspicious of child abuse.

The deputy prosecutor said Kannegaard’s story that his stepdaughter, Lily, jumped on Phoenix would only be plausible if she suffered one injury. But she also had several bruises and old rib fractures, he said.

“If she fell right, it may explain the perforated bowel,” Jackson said. “But it does not explain everything else.”

The defense attorney, however, pointed out the case was full of supposition, even from the doctors who treated Phoenix. While the physicians thought the baby’s injuries were consistent with child abuse, at least one of them conceded the 3-year-old could have caused them.

“The state rests on one theory: That on that day, this defendant lost it,” McDonald said. But “the state has no proof that he did.”

Laura McVicker: 360-735-4516; Twitter: col_courts; laura.mcvicker@columbian.com.