In 2010, Alex Trogdon was convicted of second-degree murder based on alleged bitemark evidence and a diagnosis of shaken baby syndrome connected to the death of a 16 month old child. He has spent the last 11 years incarcerated for a crime that never happened.
In 2003, Alex began dating a woman who had a toddler son and two young daughters. Within weeks of the toddler’s birth he needed to be hospitalized for breathing problems after he choked due to congestion draining into his throat and turned blue. Over the next year, his pediatrician and other specialists saw him numerous times for congestion and respiratory symptoms. In addition to prescription medicine, he was prescribed breathing treatments multiple times a day. His pediatrician’s office called him a frequent flyer due to the numerous medical issues he needed attention for in the first year and a half of his life.
On December 5, 2003, the toddler’s older sisters fell down the stairs inside their home while one was holding him. They fell down four steps and landed on top of him. His mother took him to the doctor believing he had broken a rib. At the time, a radiologist reviewed the x-rays and concluded he had no rib fractures. After his death, the autopsy revealed his mother was correct and he had broken his rib during the fall.
On Monday, December 15, 2003, after being ill over the weekend, he was again treated for an upper respiratory infection and prescribed an antibiotic. He also had a fever and diarrhea. His mother noticed his symptoms were worsening; he was vomiting and had a suppressed appetite. The next day, his fever had worsened, he was walking off-balance, and he fell asleep while trying to play and eat. His mother went to pick up her daughters from daycare, while Alex watched the child for about 25 minutes. While the mother was gone, Alex noticed that the child’s breathing was irregular and tried to call 911.
When the mother returned home a few minutes later, they rushed to Randolph Hospital. The medical chart indicates Randolph Hospital staff did not observe any signs of abuse or external evidence of trauma. The child was in critical condition and was air-lifted a few hours later to Brenner Children’s Hospital in Winston-Salem for specialized care.
In Winston-Salem, he was misdiagnosed with broken bones that it was later determined did not exist. This misdiagnosis triggered the incorrect assumption that child abuse and shaken baby syndrome was the cause of the child’s condition. He passed away the next day. The autopsy determined the cause of death was an acute brain injury due to blunt force trauma of the head.
In 2006, Alex was tried for murder because he was the person with the child when he fell ill. “Evidence” of bitemarks and shaken baby syndrome was presented by the State. The defense challenged that evidence through testimony from Alex, as well as a forensic odontologist. Alex denied harming the child and the forensic odontologist testified the marks on the child could not be positively identified as bitemarks as they were too faded and indistinct. The jury was not able to reach a verdict and a mistrial was declared.
In 2010, Alex was tried a second time and the State again claimed that the child’s injuries resulted from the head moving back and forth rapidly and being slammed into some type of object. The State presented the same “evidence” of alleged bitemarks. Although during opening arguments the defense told the jury they would hear from Alex, his counsel did not have him testify. The defense presented no evidence of any kind and Alex was convicted of second-degree murder.
The Center has filed a Motion for Appropriate Relief (MAR) on Mr. Trogdon’s behalf and believes he is innocent. There continues to be a need for convictions based on outdated and debunked “science” to be challenged with current scientific standards. The evidence shows that the child was in medical distress prior to being in Alex’s brief care. Based upon new scientific evidence challenging the shaken baby syndrome diagnosis and bitemark identifications, as well as strong evidence that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at his trial, we believe Alex is entitled to a new trial.