Former soldier convicted in infant daughter's death

LANCE BENZEL Updated: January 17, 2013 at 12:00 am • Published: January 17, 2013

A former Fort Carson soldier was found guilty Thursday of child abuse resulting in the death of his infant daughter.

Roderick Elam Jr., 22, faces 16 to 48 years in prison after an El Paso County jury concluded he caused the brain and liver injuries that led to the Dec. 15, 2011, death of 2-month-old Harmone’e Elam.

After a two-week trial, the six-man, six-woman panel deliberated for about six hours before returning its verdicts, convicting Elam of two felony child abuse counts. Fourth Judicial District Judge Ronald G. Crowder set sentencing for March 13.

Harmone’e was the 10th child to die in a suspected child abuse case in 2011 across El Paso County and Fort Carson, a grim trend that launched a local task force focused on identifying ways to halt abuse against children. Three of the deaths resulted in charges against soldiers at Fort Carson.

Elam — then a private first-class in the 4th Infantry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team — has since been discharged from the Army.

He still faces charges of violating terms of his bail bond after prosecutors say he managed to slip off Fort Carson and avoid pre-trial supervision for more than a month before he was again arrested last July. Elam went missing shortly after a Fort Carson supervisor asked a judge to lower his bond and pledged that he would be supervised.

Prosecutors say they weren’t informed of his absence for roughly 40 days.

Elam’s wife, Lakeria Shazarea Grant, also is charged with child abuse resulting in death, accused of failing to act upon her daughter’s medical needs. She faces an April trial.

Prosecutors Gail Warkentin and Chris Sutton told jurors the couple should have recognized the child’s life was in danger.

Instead, they allegedly waited until she stopped breathing before calling 911.

Under questioning by police, Elam eventually admitted to the use of force against the girl, including squeezing her abdomen between his legs and hitting her on the back of the head. He also claimed the child knocked her head on a bathtub soap tray.

Public defenders Todd Johnson and Lara Nafziger argued that Elam was an inexperienced father who failed to recognize the child’s escalating symptoms. They said he was pressured by police into taking responsibility for the injuries.

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