A man accused of killing a three-year-old Dodge City girl will face a jury.
Brock Cunningham is charged with first-degree murder and child abuse in connection to Natalie Pickle's 2008 death. Police Cunningham was caring for his girlfriend's three-year-old daughter when something happened.
During a preliminary hearing in Ford County Court Tuesday, Cunningham said Natalie was jumping on the bed, then fell off.
"I stood there for a second then went in there and Natalie was lying on her back, with her eyes open," Cunningham said. "I thought she was just dazed at first."
She was flown to a Wichita hospital for treatment, but died a day later.
An autopsy showed her death was a consequence of blunt trauma to the head, consistent with impact from an object, rather than a fall to the floor. Her death was ruled a homicide, but Cunningham was not arrested until 2013.
Kim Cunningham, Brock's mother, told a judge Natalie had an accident at the Dodge City Best Western a day before the incident at Brock's home.
Kim, who worked at the hotel, said Natalie fell down a flight of stairs, but she never told investigators about it. Surveillance video did not capture the incident.
Kim also told the judge that Natalie's mother lost her temper. She said she saw Amanda Pickle hit Natalie on the head, the same day the girl fell down the stairs.
The defense argues evidence against their client remains sketchy. But Natalie's doctors said her injuries were not an accident.
Dr. Kerri Weeks, a critical care pediatric doctor for the KU School of Medicine in Wichita, said Natalie was unconscious, and on life support upon initial assessment.
"The entire brain was swollen and there were broken blood vessels deep within and on the surface of the brain," Weeks said. "These type of injuries are not caused by short falls or minor trauma. This is a whole brain injury."
Brock Cunningham will be arraigned at another date.