After two years of being prosecuted, the Cody woman accused of murdering her boyfriend’s toddler will get her trial next month.
Carolyn Aune and her boyfriend Moshe Williams were charged together in April 2021 after Williams brought his 2-year-old daughter to the emergency room in Cody with life-threatening injuries.
The girl died days later, and law enforcement recommended a first-degree murder charge for both Aune and Williams, who vaguely implicated one another in police interviews, according to court documents.
Jack Hatfield, Park County deputy attorney, argued in Park County District Court on Thursday that Aune’s April 17 trial be delayed, because six of his key witnesses could not attend.
One of the witnesses, whom Hatfield described as the most essential, is Dr. Stephen Cina, the forensic examiner who determined that the toddler had died from the blunt-force trauma of a “gut punch” that dislodged her bowels and infected the rest of her body.
She also had had a leg amputated after she lost circulation while she was unresponsive.
“As a practical matter the state cannot do a murder trial without the pathologist that performed the autopsy,” Hatfield said Thursday. “It’s a physical impossibility. It can’t happen.”
Cina is having a major surgery this month and will be recovering and unable to work in April, according to the prosecutor’s victim/witness coordinator.
“The state doesn’t see how it can be required to go forward April 17 without the one absolutely essential witness,” said Hatfield.
Judge Bobbi Overfield in a Friday order denied Hatfield’s request to postpone the trial, saying that however much the prosecutor’s office needs its witnesses, it has not issued subpoenas for them.
“The state has made no effort to secure the presence of their witnesses by issuing or requesting issuance of subpoenas from the court,” said Overfield. “The true and actual availability of these particular witnesses cannot be known if they are not being required to appear.”
The other witnesses who said they were unable to appear include other doctors, a former police officer and a child abuse expert.
Overfield also denied Hatfield’s request to rejoin Aune’s and Williams’ separate prosecutions into one simultaneous trial.
The pair were originally charged together, but when Williams asked to pause his prosecution to determine if he had mental health issues, Overfield separated their cases to account for the different paces at which they were moving.
Overfield on Thursday declared Williams is sane enough to face trial.
But in her order declining to rejoin the two cases, the judge said making Williams’ defense attorneys prepare for a murder trial within a month could be demanding enough to compromise his right to “proper representation.”
Williams also has other “outstanding motions,” or other unresolved case communications to address before going to trial.
The prosecutor had argued when requesting to rejoin the cases that keeping them apart likely would require that the second trial be transferred to a different court because it would be difficult to find an impartial jury in a county that had just seen the first of two trials in the same murder.
Hatfield also argued that having two trials on the same alleged murder would make for a “duplicative” use of time, court resources and witness availability.
Overfield when denying his request said she took those matters into consideration.