Mom tells jury about day her son died; Natalie Evans testifies adopted son didn't bond with those around him
Author: Ruth Ann Krause, Post-Tribune correspondent
Natalie Fabian Evans described to jurors Thursday her version of the events that led to the death of her adopted son, a boy she said would not attach to his new family.
Evans, 36, is charged with murder, neglect and battery in the Nov. 30, 2001, death of 16-month-old Luke Evans.
Responding to questions from defense attorney Nick Thiros, the petite brunette became tearful on the witness stand as she looked at photos of Luke, including the first time the couple met him at a Russian orphanage and his first birthday party.
Evans said she followed the normal routine the day he died, when she took Luke out of his crib, took off his pajamas and got him ready for a bath.
"I sat him down in the bathtub," she said, supporting his back with one hand. "When I leaned over to turn the water on, he fell backwards," she said.
With her arms in a cradling position, Evans recalled saying, "Luke, Luke, oh my God, wake up. He wasn't responding at all so I called 911."
Luke was taken to St. Anthony Medical Center with a severe brain injury.
The Cook County medical examiner's office determined the baby died as a result of shaken baby syndrome.
'I asked him if he was crazy'
Evans, wearing a black pants suit and white blouse, told jurors she would have done whatever it took to get help for her developmentally delayed adopted son, including divorce her husband if necessary.
Evans said her husband eventually agreed to allow her to seek therapy for Luke through First Steps, a program that aids developmentally delayed children, as long as his participation wasn't required.
Evans said her husband was gone most of the time and abruptly quit his job in July 2001 after complaining he couldn't take the stress and wanted to spend more time with the children.
"I asked him if he was crazy. We had two new kids in the house, all kinds of bills. We had used all our money for the adoption," she said.
In the first week he was off, however, Evans said her husband went with them and a visiting relative to Navy Pier, attended a cookout at their home, went out to dinner, and otherwise was golfing, drinking with friends, visiting a race car shop or job-hunting.
Evans said Luke's behavior didn't improve with time.
"I was growing increasingly concerned about his lack of attachment to anyone close to him," she said.
She also acknowledged she would become upset when her husband would come home from work and get Luke riled up after she'd spent most of the day trying to soothe him.
"He'd have his three minutes of fun with Luke, put him down and Luke would start crying," she said.
During cross-examination, Deputy Prosecutor Kathleen O'Halloran noted inconsistencies between what Evans told the social worker at University of Chicago Children's Hospital and the Lake County police detective investigating Luke's death.
Evans acknowledged Luke didn't see his pediatrician between June 15 and Nov. 7, but she said she and her friends were taking his advice with the "wait-and-see" approach and were working with Luke on their own.
"You were choosing your marriage over Luke, correct?" O'Halloran asked.
"I don't see it that way," Evans said.
O'Halloran asked whether Evans' dream of having a family was falling apart with her strained marriage and trouble with her younger son's development and bonding with her.
"It wasn't what I hoped for," Evans said.