After a five-hour hearing Monday, a judge ordered that the father of toddler Lance Helms, who died of massive internal injuries, should stand trial on murder and child abuse charges.
Municipal Judge Gregg Marcus ordered David Helms, 37, bound over for trial after the preliminary hearing, in which Gail Helms, the defendant's mother and the grandmother of the 2-year-old boy, took the stand, along with other witnesses, including a pediatric surgeon and two Los Angeles Police Department detectives.
"We're pleased to get to this point and now it's going to be in the hands of a jury," Deputy Dist. Atty. Eleanor J. Hunter said after the proceedings. "This is the type of case a jury should decide."
But Hunter could have her work cut out for her at trial, especially given complications presented by the conviction of Helms' former girlfriend, Eve Wingfield, for the same crime, said Helms' defense attorney Jack Stone.
Two years ago, Wingfield was sentenced to 10 years in prison after a public defender persuaded her to plead guilty to a charge of child endangerment. But after evidence showing Wingfield could not have been home to administer the fatal blows was presented in court, she was released from custody last year and has since pleaded no contest to felony child abuse, her attorney said.
Stone said conflicting expert opinions in the case could present problems for the prosecution when his client goes to trial. "The whole case hinges on the credibility and the conflicting opinions on the doctors," he said.