Boy's medical history, final hours recounted; Woman's relationship with adoptive son focus at trial
Author: Ruth Ann Krause, Post-Tribune correspondent
Luke Evans' short life seemed to be getting better.
He'd suffered from tuberculosis, and his birth mother had syphilis and consumed alcohol during her pregnancy.
But then he'd been adopted from Russia in May 2001 by an American couple and lived with them near Lowell.
Yet by December he was dead, and his adoptive mother, Natalie Fabian Evans, was charged with his murder.
On Wednesday, prosecutors painted Natalie Fabian Evans as someone who succumbed to an uncontrollable rage when she shook 16-month-old Luke so violently that she killed him.
Defense attorneys countered that the state's case is circumstantial and lacks the proof to convict Evans, 36, of murder, battery and neglect of a dependent.
In his opening statement, defense attorney T. Edward Page said often in cases of unexpected death the person who last saw the victim is accused. "Because they can't explain it they are accused and that is the nightmare Natalie Fabian Evans is facing," he said.
In her opening statement to jurors, Deputy Prosecutor Kathleen O'Halloran said Evans suspected something was wrong when she took Luke Evans to the doctor in November 2001.
Luke, the younger child whom Evans and her estranged husband, Steve, adopted from Russia in May 2001, would pull on his ears and bang his head, O'Halloran said.
The toddler also didn't bond well with women and exhibited other odd behaviors, Page said
Page said the Evanses went to great lengths to have children, including unsuccessful in vitro fertilization and surgery. They next turned to adoption agencies and traveled to Russia twice.
"They knew at once Luke had certain issues," Page said.
When police were called to the couple's home at 7:44 a.m. Nov. 28, 2001, at 17256 Roosevelt, outside Lowell, Lake County police Patrolman Alfred Villarreal said Evans was on the phone in the driveway, crying and hysterical. He found the child lying face up on the kitchen floor, not moving.
Evans told him she couldn't wake the baby and took him in the bathroom to spray water on him. She either dropped Luke or mishandled him and he hit his head on the tub, Villarreal said.
Dr. Jeffrey Thompson, an emergency room physician at St. Anthony Medical Center in Crown Point, said Luke Evans was unresponsive when he arrived at 8:23 a.m. He was having seizures and his right pupil was dilated. A CAT scan showed bleeding between the skull and brain, but there was no significant sign of trauma to the head. After the scan, both pupils were dilated.
Thompson said the child appeared to be malnourished and the victim of child abuse. He was transferred to the University of Chicago Children's Hospital by ambulance and died the following day as a result of shaken baby syndrome.
Dr. Silvia Vicente, a pediatrician who saw Luke Evans on Nov. 7, 2001, said Evans was concerned about Luke's yellowish skin, caused by eating yellow vegetables, and that he didn't respond well to her, had minimal eye contact, kept hitting his head on things and pulling his ear.
At 15 months, Luke wasn't using a spoon, couldn't stack one block on top of another, scribble with a crayon or speak. He was able to walk a few steps at a time.
Vicente noted the child had a bruise on his scalp, forehead and right ear. He was taking medication prescribed by another pediatrician for tuberculosis.
When Evans brought the couple's older son into the office on Nov. 19, Evans had Luke with her. Evans told Vicente she wanted to show her what Luke "was doing to himself." When a male doctor entered the room, the child reached out and smiled. "You see -- this is how Luke is when my husband is around," Vicente read from the notes in Luke Evans' chart.
Evans told Vicente her husband didn't have much contact with the baby except to throw him in the air and catch him. He didn't want the child in the First Steps program, Vicente said Evans told her.
During a later phone conversation about blood test results, Vicente said she discussed with Evans trouble in the couple's marriage and suggested counseling, which Evans said her husband didn't believe in. Evans told the doctor she would continue to get help for Luke with or without her husband.
"I want him to be fine," Vicente quoted Evans as saying.
Natalie Fabian Evans is charged with the murder of her 16-month-old adopted son Luke. Evans and her estranged husband, Steve, adopted Luke from Russia in May 2001.