Brian Maurice Savage is "anything but aggressive," his lawyer told a jury Tuesday, a "calm, peaceful, respectful" 22-year-old who would never harm another human being, let alone a child.
And yet Savage stands accused of inflicting such a brutal beating on his girlfriend's 15-month-old boy last year that the child died, his lungs, liver and spleen badly damaged.
On the first day of Savage's murder trial Tuesday in Baltimore County Circuit Court, prosecutor Ian Wright described how the child, Cameron Justin Williams, had been left in Savage's care on Nov. 1, 2009, while the boy's mother went to work at a Royal Farms store.
Before leaving, Patience Peyton gave her son oatmeal and a bath, and put lotion on him. She ran out of diapers, she told police, and asked Savage to go out and buy some, giving him money for the errand. When he returned to their Essex apartment without the diapers, Wright said, Peyton became upset, ultimately going out herself to get them before heading to work.
"When she left Cam, he was fine," Wright said. "He was his normal, playful self."
Several hours later, Savage dialed 911 and explained that the child was unresponsive. Paramedics found him unconscious and not breathing, and without a pulse. Efforts to revive the boy failed, and he was declared dead shortly after being taken to Franklin Square Hospital Center in White Marsh.
The prosecutor said an autopsy revealed "massive injuries" to several internal organs, which led to severe blood loss. The medical examiner determined that blunt-force trauma was to blame, and compared the injuries with those normally found as a result of "serious motor-vehicle accidents," Wright said.
"Cam was not in a motor-vehicle accident," the prosecutor said. "Cam was with the defendant."
Savage's attorney, Roland Walker, told the jury that his client had an "impeccable background" and called him a "loving father to this child," although he was unrelated to the boy. "No one ever saw him lay a finger on this child," Walker said. "No one ever saw this defendant inflict any injury on this child, because he didn't."
The real culprits, he suggested, could have been the couple who shared the apartment with Savage, Peyton and her son. The defense lawyer said his client left the apartment "a number of times" that day. "Could it have happened when he was out of there?" Walker asked.
The prosecution's first witness, Baltimore County Police Officer Margaret A. Selby, said that when she pulled up to the apartment on Hadwick Drive, she saw a paramedic rushing Cameron to an ambulance, with Savage close on his heels. The officer described him as "a little frantic," and said that when she tried to get his name, "he didn't converse with me" and jumped into the ambulance's passenger seat.
Selby said she then knocked on the apartment's door to speak with the other couple, John Farrell and Ashley Jones. "They looked like they had just woken up," the officer said, but they let her in and were cooperative. While Selby was there, she said, she received word that Cameron had died.
Savage was arrested later while being interviewed at police headquarters. He said the injuries might have occurred while he was "roughhousing" with the toddler and rolled on top of him.