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Trial begins for mom accused of murder

After hours of questioning 75 potential jurors and finally selecting 12, with two alternates, the trial of Emily Usnick is underway in Johnson County.

Usnick is charged with second-degree felony murder for the death of her newborn child. The baby was found wrapped in a trash bag, inside a container, inside the trunk of a car in 2009 in Miller County.

According to the defense, Usnick unexpectedly gave birth to the girl while standing over the toilet in the home she lived in. The defense claims the baby’s head went into the water, then the torso. The defense claims Usnick picked up the baby and placed in the waste basket because “it was the only thing that was soft,” according to defense attorney Jason Emmons.

Emmons claimed Usnick was too physically tired from giving birth to reach for her child, who was not crying, to try and save her.

The prosecution claims Usnick purposefully did not try to save the baby. Instead, placing her in the trash, then into the container, and putting in the trunk of the car.

The state plans to call expert witnesses, including the Boone County Medical Examiner, that claim the baby had meth in her liver and bloodstream. The state claims this shows the baby was alive at birth and could have been resuscitated.

During opening statements, the defense told the jury no one can be sure when the baby died; before, during, or after birth.

During the emotional opening statements from both sides, Usnick and at least one juror could be seen wiping tears away.

The jury is made up of mostly women, with only three men on the panel. During questioning, the defense focused on who had experience with child birth, complications during birth and giving birth of home.

The state called it’s first witness on Wednesday. Capt. Kip Bartlett testified on the stand about his involvement in finding the baby’s body.

Bartlett was a part of the Missouri Drug Task Force team that executed a search warrant on the home where Usnick lived in 2009 outside St. Elizabeth in Miller County.

The search warrant was for drugs, however, since those charges are being tried separately from the murder case, the jury was not made aware of why the Drug Task Force was there.

Bartlett said during the search, he searched a red Mitsubishi in the garage of the home. He said he opened the trunk and found a blue tote inside.

Bartlett said he could smell something dead coming from the tote. He said he removed the lid from the tote, took the tote out from the trunk and found a trash bag inside. He said when he opened the trash bag, he found the baby’s body.

On the stand, Bartlett described the baby as “fully formed, with a full head of hair.”
The trial is expected to last until Friday.

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