LIMA — Eighteen-month-old Jaxxon Sullivan suffered brutal, traumatic and violent injuries that “almost immediately caused his death” on Easter Sunday of last year, prosecutors argued during opening statements Tuesday in the jury trial of a Lima man charged with murder in connection with the infant’s death.
Those injuries, Assistant Allen County Prosecuting Attorney Randall Basinger told jurors, came at the hand of Gabriel Salyers, who wanted the infant to stop crying and who admitted to police that he had shaken the child earlier in the day.
Jurors heard a different version of Sullivan’s death, however, from Defense Attorney John Fisher, who argued that the state’s “open and shut case” against Salyers more accurately is the culmination of shoddy police work and a “rush to justice” on the part of prosecutors.
“This child was brutally, violently attacked,” Fisher said. “And I don’t think you can argue that Jaxxon Sullivan’s death came at the hands of one of the two people who were there that night” at a home at 826 Oak St. in Lima when emergency personnel found Sullivan unresponsive in a bedroom of the home.
Fisher turned the jurors’ attention to the child’s mother, Shelly Wireman, who was the only other adult in the home at the time. The defense attorney said the child had suffered repeated abuse over the previous several weeks leading up to his death and suggested that Wireman, not Salyers, bore the responsibility for those injuries.
Wireman, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter in her son’s death.
“Gabe Salyers loves kids. He never harmed a child in his life,” the defense attorney said. “Whoever did this was a cold-blooded killer; a monster. Gabriel Salyers confessed to something that did not happen, and I’m going to be able to prove that to you,” Fisher told jurors. “Gabriel gave what the state is calling a confession, and I’m going to cast plenty of doubt on that.”
Jury selection started Tuesday morning and it wasn’t until 3:20 p.m. that a panel of seven women and five men was seated. Testimony in the trial will begin Wednesday morning.
Salyers, 32, is charged with aggravated murder and murder, each an unclassified felony; three counts of endangering children, second-degree felonies; one count of fourth-degree felony domestic violence and one misdemeanor charge of possession of drugs related to Sullivan’s death.
The infant was found unresponsive by police at 826 Oak St. in Lima on April 1 of last year and died two days later in a Toledo hospital. Salyers was described by police as being the live-in boyfriend of the infant’s mother, although Fisher on Tuesday said his client and Wireman had lived together at the Oak Street residence only a short time prior to the infant’s death.
Prosecutors and the defense attorney told jurors they would hear from a host of law enforcement personnel and medical expert as the trial unfolds.
Prosecuting Attorney Juergen Waldick and Fisher stipulated in open court last month to the authenticity and accuracy of various documents that will be included during the trial, including hospital records from Mercy Health-St. Rita’s Medical Center, Lima Memorial Health System, Blanchard Valley Hospital, St. Vincent Hospital in Toledo and Lifeflight medical transport records.
Reach J Swygart at 567-242-0464.