Jury finds Travis Wiley guilty

After over five hours of deliberation, a jury of 12 found Travis Wiley guilty of first-degree murder in the death of 2-month-old Airyana Hoffman.
Published: Nov. 17, 2023 at 10:29 AM CST|Updated: Nov. 17, 2023 at 10:55 AM CST
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QUINCY (WGEM) - After over five hours of deliberation, a jury of 12 found Travis Wiley guilty of first-degree murder in the death of 2-month-old Airyana Hoffman.

Sentencing is set for Jan. 26.

“This was not a close call, this was abusive head trauma”: The prosecution’s closing argument

After 12 total witnesses in the murder trial for 35-year-old Travis Wiley, who is charged with shaking an infant to death, the defense rested their case and the prosecution had no rebuttal witnesses.

“It is hard to decide which is sillier on its face, the notion that phones do things all by themselves or that an infant can be suffering from pneumonia for a period of time without displaying the slightest of symptoms, particular when those closest to her had eyes on her for that time, a perfectly happy and healthy two-month and three-week-old infant,” special prosecutor Jon Barnard began with.

“When Christina Dunford [Airyana Hoffman’s mother] leaves for work, she puts her in Travis Wiley’s care where she spends the last four hours of her functional life alone with him,” Barnard continued.

Barnard said the timeline tells everything and was proven by Wiley’s phone history. “The last activity on that phone [at 11:17 a.m.] was Travis Wiley connecting to a news story about a man who had been charged and convicted of murdering a 3-year-old child,” Barnard said.

Barnard said Wiley claims to have taken a nap between 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m., but there were internet connections on his phone in that time frame. “Travis Wiley, who has been up all night, all over the internet, probably tired, fatigued, little Airyana likely did what babies do, cried and maybe fussed, and whatever it was too much for him to tolerate,” Barnard told the jury.

Barnard inferred that Wiley shook Airyana Hoffman to get her to stop crying before 11:17 a.m. “2 hours and 15 minutes we know he’s awake, we know he’s on the phone,” Barnard continued. “By about 2:15 or 2:30 he knew he could no longer ignore the condition of Airyana.”

“911 was not this guy’s first move, he had at least an hour, or in that neighborhood, he had to figure out ‘What am I going to say, what am I going to do?’ " Barnard said. “Remember when Christina said what she saw when she got there, he’s standing out on the street smoking a cigarette, this 2-month-old child is in that house standing on death’s door and he’s out smoking a cigarette.”

Barnard proceeded to tell the jury about the conversation that was court-authorized to be recorded, when Wiley engaged in conversation about what happened on Jan. 20, 2018.

“On June 30, [Quincy Police] Detective Taute interviewed the defendant about what happened on Jan. 20,” Barnard said. Barnard continued with how Taute confronted Wiley about his phone history that day. “You weren’t sleeping between 1:30 and 2:30.”

“Phones do things on their own all the time,” Wiley responded during the interview.

Barnard then informed the jury about circumstantial evidence. He said he would call it “Travis Wiley evidence.” Barnard said if the evidence in this case was indeed circumstantial, then Wiley deserved a “bronze statue at the bad luck hall of fame.”

“What was the real reason he was upset, he was looking into the future?” Barnard said.

Barnard then turned to Dr. Jane Turner, who testified for more than three hours on Thursday. “It took a while to unmask the real beliefs,” Barnard said. “She struggled mightily to answer a simple question.” Barnard then referred to him asking about certain words appearing in her report that she completed after examining microscopic slides of Airyana’s organs.

“Dr. Turner, can you show us where that diagnosis [stroke] appears in Cardinal Glennon’s records, nothing,” Barnard said.

Barnard said if one has pneumonia, their lymph nodes will be swollen, but Dr. Peter Williams, who performed Airyana’s autopsy, testified on Wednesday that was not the case with Airyana, that her lymph nodes weren’t swollen.

Barnard said Dr. Turner diagnosed several dozen children’s deaths at her time with the City of St. Louis Medical Examiner’s Office as a result of closed head injuries, but after she opened Virchow Consulting, Barnard said it was only once. He claimed that cash was the driving force behind Dr. Turner’s findings. “She’s poised, she’s ready, she’ll parachute in, offer her opinion, take her cash and go to the next house,” Barnard said.

Barnard told the jury that Dr. Jane Turner reminded him of a cigarette and then proceeded to display a picture of a person holding a cigarette. “I remember there were times where doctors would come into court and say ‘There’s no evidence that smoking causes cancer or lung disease,” Barnard said.

The defense’s closing argument

“That’s the state’s theory, that’s the state’s case, that’s a great story except they showed no evidence,” Public Defender Todd Nelson said.

“You’re supposed to assume that [Airyana was fussing and Wiley had enough],” Nelson said. “What we do know is that on Jan. 20, Christina Engle received a phone call that every parent fears.”

“His [Wiley’s] account was unwavering, it was consistent,” Nelson said.

Nelson rehashed some of his lone witness, Dr. Turner’s testimony.

About midway through Nelson’s closing argument, a 5-minute recess was taken because a juror signaled to Judge Michael Atterberry that they had a medical emergency and needed a break immediately.

After reconvening, Nelson said, “Airyana’s death was the tragic result of natural processes, Travis did not murder Airyana, the state has not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Travis murdered Airyana.”

The prosecution’s rebuttal

Barnard said it’s hard to believe that multiple doctors missed what Dr. Turner allegedly found. Barnard said his medical experts testified that Airyana had no signs of underlying conditions of an illness or disease.

“At best she [Dr. Turner] is blinded by her belief system,” Barnard said.

“This infant will not see a birthday, or a family dinner, or a graduation, but let us not compound the junk offered with cash by a defendant who deployed her as a shield,” Barnard continued.

Barnard asked the jury to find 35-year-old Travis Wiley guilty of shaking Airyana to death. The jury was given their instructions, dismissed and sent into deliberations.

After over five hours of deliberation, the jury returned to the courtroom and found Wiley guilty of first-degree murder.

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