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4:08 AM, Jun. 29, 2011 |
Written by Brandon Gee | The Tennessean
Mother’s trial in toddler overdose begins
Ana Buchanan was writing and drawing in her room when she heard her stepfather screaming. “She’s dead! She’s dead!”
The 7-year-old girl followed the screams into another room and saw the lifeless body of her 16-month-old half sister, Ava Hannah, in Michael Hannah’s arms.
The child told her story to a Davidson County jury through tape-recorded testimony. Her mother, Jennifer Hannah, is on trial, charged with killing Ava, who died of a drug overdose.
“Jennifer told me to call 911 and then to hide anything that looked like it could kill Ava,” said Ana, who insisted in the recording that Jennifer Hannah not be referred to as her mother. “I hid a mermaid doll because I thought she could choke on her hair.”
Ana Buchanan now lives in California with her father and his wife. She did not appear in court, but attorneys worked out a compromise in which she would deliver her testimony on tape.
Prosecutors called several witnesses who said Jennifer Hannah was depressed and heavily medicated in the months leading up to her daughter’s death.
A recorded conversation was played in which Jennifer Hannah launched into a profane tirade when her husband told her that his father was concerned about the number of pill bottles lying around the house and threatened to call authorities if they weren’t put away.
Investigators testified Tuesday that Jennifer Hannah volunteered the possibility that Ava had been drugged.
“She made a statement that if Ava got into the pills, it wasn’t anything intentional,” said Natasha Bryant, an investigator with the Davidson County Department of Children’s Services.
Also Tuesday, a pediatrician who saw Ava Hannah on June 25, 2008, testified that she expressed concern about the child’s social surroundings and referred her parents to both a social worker and drug and alcohol rehabilitation during the visit.
She said Jennifer Hannah brought Ava to her and said the baby had been coughing, wheezing and screaming in recent weeks. She also cited the stress of her impending separation from Ava’s father, Michael Hannah, and other concerns, O’Brien said.
In addition to discussing Ava’s social surroundings, O’Brien said she prescribed an antibiotic to address the baby’s cough. But prescription drugs of another sort were found in Ava’s system after her death, including toxic levels of the painkiller Oxycodone. Jennifer Hannah had a prescription to that drug, and traces of it were found in the sippy cup of milk she gave her daughter on the day of her death.
Jennifer Hannah’s attorney, Patrick McNally, focused on attacking the character of Michael Hannah and questioning the memory of Ana Buchanan.
McNally noted that Michael Hannah, who committed suicide in September 2009, had an affair with one of the prosecution’s witnesses, who also testified that Michael Hannah took steroids, kept guns hidden under the couch and had introduced Jennifer Hannah to drugs.
The trial resumes today in Davidson County Criminal Court.
An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of Ana Buchanan. The Tennessean regrets the error.
Contact Brandon Gee at 615-726-5982 or firstname.lastname@example.org.