exposing the dark side of adoption
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Attorneys address events leading up to boy’s death


IOWA CITY — When Brian and Lisa Dykstra brought their adopted baby home to Iowa City from Russia in 2005, their “dreams came true,” defense attorney Leon Spies told a 14-member jury Monday during the first day of Brian Dykstra’s murder trial.

“By all accounts, Brian Dykstra was an eager, loving father,” Spies told the nine female and five male jurors.

Dykstra was arrested in August 2008 and charged with second-degree murder after his 21-month-old son, Isaac, died with severe brain injuries on Aug. 14, 2005.

But Spies told jurors during opening statements of his client’s trial on Monday that Dykstra and his wife were devoted parents who shared a “strong faith.” They decided to adopt Isaac after learning they couldn’t have biological children.

On Aug. 10, 2005, according to the defense attorney, their lives changed forever. The boy fell head first onto a concrete floor and bruised, Spies told the jurors.

Over the next few days, he said, Isaac showed other “subtle but important changes,” including a “squishy” spot on top of his head. When Isaac began crying and holding his head on Aug. 13, Dykstra panicked when he called 911 and then hung up, according to Spies.

But prosecutors said that when paramedics responded, they found a pale child with bluish lips, fixed pupils, bruising near his ear and a soft spot on top of his head.

Assistant County Attorney Beth Beglin told jurors Monday that Dykstra explained to a first responder only that the boy had fallen a few days ago and bumped his head. Responders asked what happened that morning but “never got an answer as to what occurred,” Beglin said.

The boy was rushed to University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, and doctors found he had severe head injuries, including a skull fracture, brain swelling and bruising.

They said the injuries were not consistent with a days-old fall down two steps, Beglin told jurors. She said several doctors will testify that Isaac’s injuries were consistent with being shaken or slammed on the same day that he was hospitalized.

“This devastating brain injury was not accidental — it was a malicious act,” Beglin said. “And the only person who could have and did inflict that injury was the defendant, Brian Dykstra.”

The trial is expected to last a week and a half.

2011 Oct 24