Witness: Bruises seen previously on child

Date: 2011-12-01

The Wilson Post
A witness for the prosecution testified Tuesday in the trial against Dr. Deborah Mark stating she suspected Mark’s 4-year-old adopted daughter, Kairisa, was being abused, but did not report it to the authorities before the girl passed away in July 2010.

Christine Kowa, a parent whose child attends the same karate class as Mark’s 8-year old biological daughter, testified for the prosecution stating she saw Kairisa on more than one occasion and noticed bruises on her face, neck and forearms.

“I was taken aback by the bruising on her face,” Kowa said, recalling one such night seeing Kairisa.

Mark is on trial for the alleged murder of Kairisa, who she and her husband Steven adopted from China in April 2010. The child was taken to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital from the family’s home on Laural Hill Drive in the Providence area of Mt. Juliet with serious injuries on July 1, 2010. She died of those injuries the next day.

Kowa said Steven Mark told her at the karate class that Kairisa had fallen while Deborah was walking the dog with their daughter and Kairisa. According to Kowa, Steven told her that Kairisa had wandered away from Mark and returned with bruises on her face, neck and forearm.

However, Kowa said she did not feel the bruises were consistent with a fall and suspected the child may be a victim of abuse. She said she wanted to be sure and document bruises she had seen on Kairisa and had even taken a photo of her daughter with Kairisa that was submitted as evidence.

Kowa also testified to seeing Mark pick up Kairisa by the arms and “slamming” her in a chair at karate class. Kowa described the action as “too forceful” for a young child.

“I decided I would bring my concerns to the proper authorities,” Kowa said.

Before she could notify the police, Kowa said she went on vacation the week before July 4, 2010. She said upon her arrival, friends told her of a child in Mt. Juliet that had passed away and that child abuse was suspected. “At that moment, I knew it was Kairisa,” Kowa said.

Mark’s attorney, Jack Lowery Sr., asked Kowa if she enjoyed the attention police have given to her, but Kowa insisted she has not gotten any attention or favors from authorities. Lowery pointed to a written statement given to police by Kowa that left out the incident of Mark allegedly “slamming” Kairisa into the chair. Kowa said she simply forgot to add that into the statement.

Lowery also questioned the date when the photo taken by Kowa of Kairisa and her own daughter. He showed Kowa a different picture of Kairisa and asked if she saw any bruises. Kowa said she did see “a small discoloration on one cheek.”

The timing of Kowa’s vacation was also brought into question by Lowery, who said reporting Mark of child abuse “wasn’t that important” to Kowa if she went on vacation before doing so.

“Accusing someone of hurting someone else is not something I do every day,” Kowa responded.

The jury also heard testimony from Dr. Alice Rothman, a pediatrician at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and director of the International Adoption Clinic there. She was admitted as an expert on pediatrics.

Rothman testified to giving Kairisa a physical examination on April 12, 2010, a typical post-adoption check up. In her report, Rothman noted Kairisa weighed less and was shorter than the typical range for her age. She said Kairisa was developmentally delayed.

“The vast majority of internationally adopted children are developmentally delayed,” Rothman said.

The defense pointed out that Kairisa had suffered from malnutrition, and Rothman said that one aspect of her development delay was in fact malnutrition. Lowery read symptoms of malnutrition including dry skin, bleeding gums, decaying teeth, fragile bones and a weak immune system.

Rothman said those were all symptoms of malnutrition but on re-cross examination, Assistant District Attorney General Tom Swink asked if Rothman had observed any of those signs and Rothman said she did not.

The final witness of the day was Tammy Bass, of Bethany Christian Services, the adoption agency that the Marks used to adopt Kairisa. She classified Kairisa as a “special needs child” and said the Marks had asked for a special needs child.

A video was shown from China that depicted Kairisa clapping and playing with a balloon. Bass said the video was used to give “an accurate representation of the child” and was given to the Marks.

Bass also said she only met Mark in passing at the adoption clinic and said she never saw Kairisa after the adoption, but Lisa Lancaster was the family’s case worker. Bass said that during Lancaster’s post-adoption visit to the Mark home two weeks after Kairisa’s adoption that the “adjustment was going better than expected.”

However, Bass said Bethany Christian Services repeatedly informs adopting parents that when problems arrive, there are people at Bethany Christian Services available 24 hours a day.

She said the Marks had never called Bethany expressing any problems until June 30, when she said Steven called and he described Kairisa as a “demon child” with self-destructive behavior.

Bass said the Marks were referred to a counselor but added that after the counselor contacted the Marks the family did not make an appointment to meet with him.

The trial adjourned for the day and is continuing today at the Wilson County Criminal Justice Complex.

Staff Writer Patrick Hall may be contacted at phall@wilsonpost.com.


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