Relates to:
Date: 2003-10-02

Author: MATT GRYTA - News Staff Reporter

Jessica Vitale-Elgie's husband stopped her from making a 911 emergency call after their 5-year-old adopted son collapsed hours before he died, the judge at her trial learned Wednesday.

William Elgie told State Supreme Court Justice Joseph S. Forma his own "panic" prevented her from making the 911 call. Vitale-Elgie had called their family doctor, but got only a recording, moments after their son Casey collapsed in their bathroom three years ago.

After calling Elgie, a Roswell Park Cancer Institute computer expert, to the stand defense attorneys rested their case in the trial on a charge of criminally negligent homicide. Forma reserved decision and scheduled an Oct. 9 hearing for any motions the defense might want to file and to see if either side wants him to consider lesser charges.

Vitale-Elgie's attorneys, Michael S. Taheri and Peter J. Todoro Jr., and legal assistant James Orr said they do not anticipate a verdict from the judge during that Oct. 9 court session.

Vitale-Elgie, 39, faces a possible four-year state prison term if found guilty.

Vitale-Elgie, who has lived apart from her husband and children for months, confirmed Wednesday that she had chosen not to testify.

Forma made it clear that she can be found guilty of criminally negligent homicide only if prosecutors have proved she "failed to perceive the substantial risk of death" to her son after he ingested laundry detergent three years ago.

Casey was pronounced dead in Women's and Children's Hospital at 10:50 p.m. Aug. 31, 2000, about 10 hours after drinking detergent from a bucket in which laundry was soaking.

William Elgie, 41, was the last witness at the five-day nonjury trial, and only the second defense witness. He told the judge he opted to take Casey to nearby Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital rather than wait for response to a 911 call. The boy was later transferred to Children's.

Elgie insisted Casey seemed fine medically when he got home from work about 5:45 p.m. that day. He told the judge that Casey was running around a table on the rear patio. He said the boy told him that a new bruise on his forehead was the result of a fall on the patio that afternoon.

Casey, who had a tendency to put things in his mouth, had thrown up the previous night after eating cereal bars, Elgie told the judge.

When prosecutor Kenneth F. Case asked Elgie if the boy "looked absolutely fine" just moments before he went into the bathroom about 6:30 and collapsed, Elgie said, "Yes."

He also told the judge that their three surviving children, a 9-year-old daughter and twin 4-year-old sons, are living with him under court order, with Vitale-Elgie making supervised visits.

When Forma asked Elgie why he was planning to fight for custody of the children in divorce proceedings, Elgie replied, "I love them deeply, and I am just as capable as any two parents and just as capable" of caring for them as Vitale-Elgie.



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