A High Court jury has found Troy Kevin Taylor guilty of the murder and assault of 14-month old Ihaka Paora Braxton Stokes in July 2015.
The Christchurch jury came back with the guilty verdicts on the ninth day of the trial and four hours of deliberations in the jury room.
They agreed with the Crown that 23-year-old Taylor, who had offered to adopt Ihaka and marry his mother, Mikala Stokes, assaulted him on Thursday July 2, and murdered him the next day.
The trial heard that Taylor told Miss Stokes he had found something was wrong with Ihaka, who was injured in his cot.
Ihaka died in hospital about an hour later, and the post mortem examination by a Wellington forensic pathologist, Dr Amy Sparks, showed that he had 59 injuries, including broken bones, and brain swelling from a head injury. She said the cause of death was head injuries, and the various injuries were not explainable by a single accidental cause. She considered they were inflicted injuries which she described as “multiple blunt force injuries”.
Taylor’s defence counsel alleged that Miss Stokes, heavily pregnant and coping with a child with an ear infection, could not be ruled out as being the person who caused the injuries. She was the only other person in the Bryndwr house at the time.
A paediatrician, Janet Ferguson told Justice Cameron Mander and the jury that in her opinion the injuries to the jaw of the infant the day before his death were not consistent with a fall while he was in his cot. She had seen Ihaka at the hospital on the night he died, and said that the shape of the bruise was not consistent with any hard surface in the cot.
Taylor had told the police soon after the child’s death, that he had gone to check him the night before after hearing a bang which he thought was the sound of Ihaka falling and hitting himself on the cot.
Professor Colin Smith, a neuropathologist, said he believed that Ihaka would have become unconscious from his head injuries only minutes after he received them.
Taylor told the jury that his repeated concussion injuries never caused him to lose control or strike Ihaka.
He said he had repeated injuries from the time he got his first concussion in a sports injury when he was aged 11 or 12. The last one had occurred in 2014, before he met Miss Stokes.
On that occasion he was hospitalised for 10 days. He was left feeling nauseous and dizzy and lost feeling in his right leg for a time. He was unable to work. At the time of Ihaka’s death, he was taking medication which was improving his symptoms.
He told the trial about his relationship with the infant, who was not his natural son. “I don’t care what anyone thinks, He is my son. I used to consider him my little shadow. He would follow me everywhere.”
Justice Mander thanked the jury, saying it was apparent they were extremely careful and diligent in discharging their obligations.
He remanded Taylor in custody for sentencing on June 9, and asked for a pre-sentence report and victim impact statement to be prepared.