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Items allegedly used to kill Schenectady child shown at grandmother's trial

Friday, September 20, 2013
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Gloria Nelligan enters Schenectady County Court for the start of her murder trial on Monday morning. Nelligan is charged with second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter in the death of her grandson.
Photographer: Marc Schultz
Gloria Nelligan enters Schenectady County Court for the start of her murder trial on Monday morning. Nelligan is charged with second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter in the death of her grandson.

— Items allegedly used by Gloria Nelligan to fatally beat her grandson were entered into evidence Friday at her murder trial, including two parts of a back scratcher.

The main part had blue painter’s tape around the length. The second part was a small piece from the hand-like end, broken off at some point and found by investigators downstairs, near where prosecutors allege Sha’hiim Nelligan was beaten.

Also Friday, the chair upon which prosecutors say the boy was beaten was shown. Gloria Nelligan’s daughters testified earlier in the week that Sha’hiim’s arms were bound to the chair legs with a jump rope.

Defense attorney Mark Caruso suggested through questioning that the plastic ends of the jump rope may not have been able to fit through the chair’s rear legs.

The chair is black, with a tall back, similar to a dining room chair. The back includes a fan design, with tight vertical bars forming the fan. The fan design continues, with those bars going almost to the floor. The chair legs extend about an inch beyond the design. The front legs are free of any design.

The evidence was entered through the person who collected it, city police evidence technician Thomas Mattice. He began testifying Thursday and concluded his testimony Friday morning.

Nelligan, 43, is standing trial on one count each of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter in the Feb. 23 death of 8-year-old Sha’hiim, of whom she had custody.

Prosecutors say Nelligan beat her grandson so severely that swelling caused his heart to stop because of a lack of blood. The beating, prosecutors allege, was over a pack of gum Sha’hiim had stolen from a store days earlier.

Nelligan has contended the boy hit his head on the bathtub on the morning he died. She said he was acting out and hurting himself in the days leading to his death.

On the prosecutor’s table Friday morning was a child’s mid-size toy box/hamper, with characters from the children’s cartoon “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” on the outside and one of the few children’s items from Sha’hiim’s stark bedroom. Caruso suggested in cross-examination Sha’hiim had tried to hurt himself on that hamper.

The case is being tried before Schenectady County Court Judge Karen Drago without a jury, a request Nelligan made before the start of the trial.

The judge inspected the back scratcher at the bench. The small piece was described by Mattice as a “tooth” from the hand-like end of the scratcher.

Caruso has previously suggested the scratcher was broken in half sometime before, on the family dog.

Caruso also asked Mattice whether he collected any pens, pencils or other pointed objects that could have inflicted puncture wounds found on Sha’hiim’s legs. Mattice said he did not, as such objects weren’t included in the search warrant.

Prosecutor Christina Tremante-Pelham countered by asking about a bath brush collected at the scene and shown in court Friday, suggesting the brush could have caused those wounds. That brush was found broken in half.

 
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