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Jurors cry after seeing photos of child’s body

Photographs of a 3-month-old's lifeless body brought tears to the eyes of jurors Monday in the capital murder trial of Travis Mullis in Galveston. Mullis is accused of killing his son in 2008. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
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GALVESTON, Texas Police photographs of a baby boy s lifeless body, lying in the grass with his tiny head fractured and face splotched with blood, brought tears to the eyes of jurors sitting in judgment of the boy s father.

Testimony began Monday in the capital murder trial of Travis James Mullis, 24.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Prosecutors showed the jury photographs of 3-month-old Alijah Mullis, whose Jan. 29, 2008, slaying resulted in a capital murder charge against Mullis, the boy s father.

When Judge John Ellisor asked Mullis how he would plead, Mullis answered, not guilty, capital murder.

Robert K. Loper, one of Mullis attorneys, told jurors his client isn t guilty of capital murder, saying Mullis didn t intentionally cause his son s death.

Mullis also was indicted on an accusation he committed or attempted to commit aggravated sexual assault of his child, but prosecutors abandoned the charge at trial, saying if there is a punishment hearing, the evidence would be presented then.

911 Tape, Chilling, Traumatizing

Jesse Zaro and his wife found the boy s body while looking for wildlife. Prosecutor Donna Cameron played the audiotape of Zaro calling police.

It s chilling, traumatizing, Cameron told a jury of seven women and five men in the 122nd District Court.

Zaro testified he and his wife drove to Galveston s far East End and stopped atop a berm, partly constructed of concrete. Zaro first thought an object in the grass was a doll.

I saw it just lying here with a blue Pamper on, Zaro said. I can t believe this somebody would do something like this. Oh, my God! It s a baby!

Zaro said that remembering the occasion hurt his heart.

I looked down, and something hit my heart, like all the wind just left me, Zaro said. It was the horror, man.

Alijah s Injuries Graphic

Police found Alijah wearing only in a diaper on a cool, breezy January morning. Officers found one tiny, blue sock and the boy s car seat nearby.

Then Galveston police Sgt. Richard Kershaw, who now works for the state attorney general, found Alijah s body face down in the grass.

The photographs show Alijah s mouth open, his eyes were closed. Blood appeared to have settled to one side of his face, which also had visible bruises. His arms rested beside his head, and there was an inch deep and 3 inches in diameter impression beneath his fair-colored hair.

At least two of the female jurors frequently wiped tears from their eyes as Cameron displayed what she called graphic crime-scene photographs of Alijah on a projector.

Alijah also had two square patterns on his skull. Upcoming testimony is expected to connect those marks to the pattern of a shoe.

Ants Found On Boy s Body

Cameron read aloud for the jury a report from a Galveston ambulance crew, describing Alijah s condition.

An emergency medical technician reported Alijah s skin was pale and there were ants on him.

The medical examiner will testify Alijah died of blunt-force trauma. His skull shattered like an egg shell, Cameron said.

He died instantly, because of the devastating nature of those injuries, Cameron said.

Former Galveston officer Jeremy Schwartz, who has since taken a job with the FBI, was the lead detective on the scene. He was the third and final witness called by prosecutors Monday.

Police Learn Boy s Identity

Schwartz learned the boy s identity after his mother, Caren Kohberger, who was Mullis girlfriend, called the Galveston County Medical Examiner s Office, asking about her son.

Schwartz and other officers drove to Alvin to interview Kohberger and search the home, where nine people four adults and five children lived in a three-bedroom mobile home. The mobile home was owned by acquaintances of Mullis and Kohberger.

Prosecutors showed jurors photographs of the untidy room Mullis, Kohberger and Alijah shared with two boys, their acquaintance s children.

Alijah had no crib, and he slept in his car seat, Schwartz said.

Schwartz didn t tell Kohberger what happened to Alijah. He knew the boy he found on the seawall was her child after seeing a photograph at the home. Schwartz also found inside the home a single, blue infant s sock similar to the one found at the seawall. He also saw similar diapers there.

Mullis Video Statement To Come Last

Authorities began searching for Mullis and Kohberger s car. In previous court hearings, prosecutors showed Ellisor a video of Mullis Feb. 1 statement to Philadelphia homicide investigators. Prosecutors intend to play the video on direct examination of their final witness.

The Daily News was present in court in January when prosecutors played the video in which Mullis described in vivid detail the last day of his son s life. The judge ruled the video was admissible at trial.

Mullis told police he reached a breaking point because he feared eviction when the woman who owned the mobile home learned of an encounter he had with her daughter.

Mullis is charged in Brazoria County with enticing a child in relation to that encounter. Mullis denies the allegation.

Mullis argued with Kohberger about the encounter and left with Alijah. He drove to Galveston, according to the video statement.

Mullis Describes Alijah s Death

Consumed with stress, Mullis told police on videotape, the only way to make him stop crying was to kill him.

Mullis put his hands around Alijah s throat and applied pressure with his thumbs, he said in the video.

I heard him begin to gurgle, Mullis said. I let go of him, and he cried even more.

Mullis then told police he put his son on the concrete part of the berm and stomped on Alijah s head three or four times until he felt the child s skull collapse under his shoe.

Using a tissue box to represent Alijah s head, Mullis demonstrated the force he used for Philadelphia police.

Mullis grabbed the boy s car seat and threw it. He then grabbed Alijah by the feet and threw him in the same direction.

I (had to) get it away from me, Mullis said. I was scared of it.

Mullis, in the video, said he left Galveston and drove to the East Coast, relying on the kindness of strangers and churches for travel money.

Defense: Mullis Didn t Possess Intent

If convicted of capital murder, Mullis faces life in prison without the possibility of parole. Prosecutors also have announced their intention to seek the death penalty in the case.

Loper disagreed with one of the state s assertions. Mullis didn t intend to kill his son, Loper said. Intent is one of the prerequisites the prosecution would have to prove for a capital murder conviction.

Is that really what he meant? Loper asked. It s not that you won t hold him accountable for his actions, but if the evidence creates reasonable doubt of what he meant to do when he did what he did on the seawall, (then) it will result in you folks coming back with a verdict of not guilty for capital murder.

The prosecution intends to call as many as 12 witnesses and could rest by Thursday.

This story was brought to you thanks to khou.com s partnership with The Galveston County Daily News.