“It is the opinion of this examiner that this infant died from blunt force injuries to the head.
The manner of death is homicide.”
El Paso County Medical Examiner’s post mortem report
March 18, 2008
The homicide of a 5-week-old Odessa infant remains under investigation more than two-and-a-half years after his death.
Dustyn Bailey Wright was born Feb. 7, 2008, in Odessa and died March 16, 2008, at Thomason Hospital in El Paso with head injuries and a broken rib.
The case was one of several that were not included in the Uniform Crime Report. His case initially was classified by Odessa police as injury to a child after the infant was taken to Medical Center Hospital on March 15, 2008.
At death, Dustyn was about 22 inches tall and weighed just less than 11 pounds, El Paso County Medical Examiner Juan Contin’s report stated. In the report, Dustyn is described as a well-developed, well-nourished boy wearing Pampers at his arrival to the medical examiner, with light brown hair and bluish-gray eyes.
According to the report, the external evidence of injury included five small purple contusions at the right temple, two inches by one inch.
Among the internal injuries Contin’s report noted were “at least three separate areas of hemorrhage in the scalp; the largest one is located in the occipital areas, measuring about five inches by four inches. The second largest one is located in the left frontal area, measuring about four inches by three inches. The last one consists of several small purple contusions matching the configuration of those described in the right forehead.”
Contin’s examination noted a fresh, three-inch fracture to the top-middle of the infant’s skull and another fresh fracture on the seventh rib on the left side about an inch from his spine.
Contin’s conclusion was that the cause of death was blunt force injuries to the head, the manner of death a homicide.
Odessa Police Department Chief Tim Burton said the case was classified as a murder in 2008 after OPD received the autopsy report. The front sheet of the OPD incident report reflects this with “murder” handwritten over a section of the report. Police reported seven murders in 2008 for Uniform Crime Reporting purposes.
Dustyn’s death should have made it eight.
In initial interviews over UCR discrepancies, the infant’s homicide wasn’t brought up as an open case.
“It wasn’t fresh in my mind,” Burton said, although he said he was aware of the case. Burton arrived as chief in fall 2008.
When Dustyn died, Chris Pipes was technically the Odessa police chief, but he said last week that he wasn’t aware of the initial incident because he was on vacation from mid-February 2008 until the end of March when he retired.
And while the case wasn’t reported in the UCR numbers, police say the case has always been an ongoing investigation.
Lt. Eddie Reed, head of the criminal investigations unit at OPD, said the investigative team continues to collect statements, do polygraph tests and sift through evidence.
In an initial interview, Reed said the infant was in a vehicle on the way to a grocery store when the driver and passenger of the vehicle realized the infant was no longer breathing. At that time, the unidentified driver and passenger drove the infant to Medical Center Hospital.
In a subsequent interview, Reed would not clarify who was in the vehicle with the infant.
The infant was flown from Medical Center Hospital to Thomason Hospital, since renamed University Medical Center. Reed said he is not sure why the baby was sent to El Paso, where he later died.
Following Dustyn’s death, OPD requested a Tarrant County forensic pathology opinion on the El Paso autopsy report, but Tarrant County declined to review the report. A spokesperson with the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office did not give an explanation why the request was denied when contacted by phone by the Odessa American.
In early September of this year, OPD investigators asked Dr. Ruth Kohlmeier, a forensic pathologist hired Aug. 9 at the Permian Basin Forensic Center, to give a forensic pathology opinion on the El Paso autopsy, Reed said.
While the department knows blunt trauma was the cause of death, investigators are trying to figure out what caused that trauma, Reed said, adding that the report from Kohlmeier should produce those answers, Reed said.
Kohlmeier said she still needs some materials from the Odessa Police Department and is working on putting the pieces together for her report.
Reed said the department is waiting on the El Paso medical examiner to send some documents to the department, which will be forwarded to Kohlmeier.
Odessa police refused to give specific information about who was interviewed, where the incident took place and what evidence it has collected in the homicide. According to the original incident report, the offense occurred at 3:30 p.m. March 15 at Dustyn’s home. It was reported to police at 6:30 p.m. March 15.
Initially, the reporting officer classified the crime as family violence by checking “FV” on the initial injury to a child report.
Dustyn’s obituary appeared in the Odessa American on March 20, 2008. Wright’s parents, Tamara Deitrick and Joseph Wright, through MySpace declined to comment, and telephone calls to grandparents and great-grandparents were either unsuccessful or the family members also declined to comment.
Dustyn was 38 days old at the time of his death. As of Sunday, his case has been unsolved for 959 days.