ER doctor says baby’s bruising alarmed him

Trial starts for Vancouver man, little girl's father, who is charged with beating her

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

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A doctor said Wednesday that he had suspicions of foul play as soon as a 5-month-old girl arrived at the hospital.

Still, he didn’t outright rule out the story he was told: that the infant’s injuries happened when her 3-year-old sister jumped on her.

“It was one of many possibilities,” Dr. Raymond Lee, an emergency department physician at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center, testified Wednesday during cross-examination.

Lee did say, though, that he was alarmed by the extensive bruising on the girl’s stomach that could point to child abuse. “There was something incongruent with how the child was injured,” he said. “It was enough suspicion to call law enforcement.”

Lee was one of the first witnesses Wednesday for the prosecution in the trial of Ryan “Buck” Kannegaard, a Vancouver man accused of seriously assaulting his infant daughter, Phoenix.

The trial started late Tuesday afternoon with opening statements.

Deputy Prosecutor Rachael Probstfeld told jurors that by all accounts, Phoenix was a happy and healthy child — until Nov. 2, 2009, when her mother, Lydia Kannegaard, went to work, leaving her with dad.

Hours later, Phoenix was rushed to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland with bruising all over her body, a broken wrist, lacerated spleen and a perforated bowel. The infant survived.

“You’re going to hear that in eight hours, that baby girl was fighting for her life,” Probstfeld told jurors.

The details of what happened that evening are not clear, though, Probstfeld conceded.

The state contends Phoenix was severely beaten by Kannegaard, who was stressed over financial problems and marital trouble.

Kannegaard’s attorney, David McDonald, argues that it was all accidental.

“This case is a story of a loving, caring father, a rambunctious older sister and a tragic accident,” McDonald said.

A Clark County Superior Court jury will decide whether Kannegaard, a 26-year-old honorably discharged U.S. Marine, is guilty of first-degree assault of a child and first-degree criminal mistreatment.

Probstfeld said that sometime in the hours when Lydia was at work, Phoenix was badly hurt. But instead of rushing her to the hospital or calling 911, Kannegaard wiped up the blood from a beanbag chair, cleaned the baby and put her to bed.

“He did not do a single thing to help her,” Probstfeld said. “He did that because he was covering up his tracks.”

When Lydia Kannegaard came home around midnight, the deputy prosecutor said, she heard the baby make a wheezing sound. Upon checking on Phoenix, the mother found her blue in color, limp and unresponsive.

She rushed the baby to Southwest Washington Medical Center, where a nurse quickly rushed her to the trauma unit.

Probstfeld said the nurses are still haunted by first seeing the badly injured and sick baby.

“Even though it’s been 21 months, she will never forget about Phoenix Kannegaard,” Probstfeld said about the first triage nurse.

Phoenix was transported to Doernbecher for surgery. In the meantime, Kannegaard was questioned by investigators. He told them that he was cooking dinner when he heard a scream. He ran into the family room and saw his 3-year-old stepdaughter on top of Phoenix, who had been lying on a beanbag chair.

Probstfeld said doctors were skeptical that a toddler could cause such serious injuries.

The investigation continued. Later, Probstfeld said, the 3-year-old sister was interviewed by investigators and described her stepdad as having “big legs.” When pressed by investigators, the toddler said Kannegaard “kicks Phoenix over and over,” the deputy prosecutor said.

In his opening statement, McDonald gave a much different picture. He described his client as a loving and gentle father with no history of anger problems. Friends and family never thought Phoenix was in danger.

Lydia Kannegaard “describes her husband as soft spoken, not violent and never rough with the children,” McDonald said.

That night, when Kannegaard went to cook dinner, he set Phoenix on the beanbag chair, “a decision he regrets to this day,” he said.

When he saw Phoenix injured, he cleaned her up and tried to feed her. When she wouldn’t eat, he put her to bed.

McDonald said his client was cooperative with police, even though they were relentless to pick apart his story of what happened.

In the third interview, “they call him a liar, put up their hand and won’t let him continue,” McDonald said.

The trial is expected to last through Tuesday.

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