LANCASTER — In testimony that at times brought witnesses to tears, jurors Tuesday heard about the death of 2 1/2-year-old Madison Dana of Berlin on Nov. 27, 2016.
Her father, Roger Dana, 45, is charged with both first- and second-degree murder, alleging he physically and sexually assaulted Madison while he was caring for her at the Berlin apartment he shared with the child’s mother.
Dana has pleaded not guilty.
His attorneys argued police ignored evidence regarding other potential suspects.
Assistant State Attorney General Scott Chase began his opening statement by showing the jury a picture of a “normal, happy” Madison Dana taken the day before her death followed by a one of her bruised and beaten face taken after the 911 call to police.
The prosecutor said Madison did not fall from a bunk bed as Dana initially told police.
Chase said the state will show her death was no accident but the result of being brutally beaten by her father. Chase said Dana also sexually assaulted Madison for his own “sick, perverted sexual desires.”
He urged the jury not to accept the excuse that Madison’s death was an accident or that a combination of alcohol and drugs were to blame. Chase said the timeline will show Dana was alone with his daughter the afternoon of her death.
Public Defender Aileen O’Connell said Dana did not kill or sexually assault his daughter. Intoxicated when police responded to the York Street apartment, she said Dana was a convenient suspect for police.
She said numerous people came in and out of the apartment that day. She said while police collected about 60 items from the apartment as potential evidence, it tested only the ones it believed would implicate Dana. She said no semen was found on Madison.
O’Connell said Dana took the prescription drug Klonopin and in combination with alcohol, it can cause blackouts or false memories.
“We may never know what happened to Madison,” O’Connell said.
She told the jury Dana “was totally unfit to be a father” but said it must base its decision on the evidence.
Berlin Police Sgt. Geoff Bardeen said he was the first to arrive after dispatch got a 911 call that a baby at 109 York St. wasn’t breathing.
He said he found Ashley Bourque holding her daughter.
“She was screaming and crying, asking me to help her baby,” said Bardeen, who has since left full-time police work.
He said he took the baby and had begun CPR when the Berlin Emergency Medical Service paramedic arrived.
Madison, he said, "was completely gone and lifeless." He said he noticed bruises on her abdomen when her pajama top lifted as he started compressions.
Bardeen said Bourque’s mother, Paulette Walker, was yelling and punching and kicking the porch railing. He said he saw a nervous-looking Dana in the doorway.
Dr. Faith Pinkerton, head of the emergency team at Androscoggin Valley Hospital, said Madison’s body temperature was 85.2 degrees, the pupils in her eyes were fixed and dilated, and she was essentially dead when she arrived at the hospital.
“It would be easier to talk about where there weren’t bruises,” she responded, when asked by Chase to describe the bruises on Madison’s body.
Pinkerton said they did everything they could to try and save her life. Twice, she said they were able to get a very brief heartbeat but ultimately their efforts were unsuccessful.
Bourque, 27, testified she had celebrated Thanksgiving the day before at her apartment with her father and his girlfriend and they had stayed overnight.
She said she had to go to work Sunday and left the apartment at 7:45 a.m. She called Dana during her lunch break and he said he was alone at the apartment with Madison. She said he sounded normal and she could hear Madison playing in the background and talked to her as well.
Later than afternoon, Bourque received a call from her mother, Paulette Walker, reporting that Dana had called her to report Madison was dead.
She said she dropped the phone and immediately ran home.
When she arrived, Walker was holding Madison and Bourque said she took her daughter and tried to get her to respond.
“She was limp. She had cuts and bruises all over herself,” Bourque recalled. She said Dana told her she had fallen off the top bunk bed where he put her while he went to get some clothes after bathing her.
Bourque said she and Dana had been together seven years at the time of Madison’s death. She said Dana often took care of Madison because he was unemployed and they could not afford day care. She said Dana was not supposed to have alcohol in the house when he was alone with Madison.
The day after Madison’s death, Bourque agreed to meet with Dana at Dunkin Donuts in Berlin. She said Dana was crying and was sorry about their daughter’s death and said he should have been paying more attention to her.
Paulette Walker testified she lived a couple of blocks from her daughter and saw her granddaughter almost every day.
She described Madison as a happy baby. She said she received a call from Dana reporting Madison was dead that day at 3:12 p.m., and immediately called her daughter at work and then went to her daughter’s apartment.
When she arrived, she said Dana was holding Madison on the bed. She took the baby, noting that Dana seemed upset and intoxicated.
Walker admitted she was upset and hit the wall at Bourque’s house and at the hospital.
O’Connell questioned Walker about her actions that day and reports that her knuckles were swollen and her shirt had blood on it.
She denied being at the apartment before receiving the call from Dana and said she never hurt her granddaughter.
Walker said she gave police the shirt she was wearing that day and allowed them to see her cellphone.
The state also called Lloyd Riff Jr., who testified he stopped by the apartment that morning at Dana’s request.
Dana asked him to pick up some beer and he later returned with three large cans of Natural Ice and one of the extra strong ale Nutty Buddy.
The trial before Coos County Superior Court Judge Peter Bornstein is expected to run up to 10 days with separate phases on guilt and insanity.