After reviewing the case for almost three months, Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Bobby Turk today dismissed a former Virginia Tech football player’s felony child endangerment charge.
Xavier Boyce, 22, was arrested in March 2011 on charges of cruelty and injuries to his daughter, who was less than a year old at the time. Boyce’s girlfriend, Olivia Hutchins, was also arrested, but her charges were later dropped in a preliminary hearing.
“After reviewing all of the evidence, I do believe the child was injured by one of two people,” Turk said.
However, he said later, “I cannot say without reasonable doubt that Mr. Boyce is the one who did it. So I have to dismiss this charge.”
After Boyce’s bench trial in August, Turk said he needed about three weeks before issuing a ruling. Turk said because the charge stated that the endangering of the child could be willful or negligent, he wanted to research previous cases to better understand how negligence could play a role.
Two days shy of three months later, Turk today said the case “had been a very difficult situation for the court.”
According to testimony from two doctors called as witnesses by county Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Dean Manor during the August trial, the couple’s child appeared to have suffered from abusive head trauma — which is often called “shaken baby syndrome.” The child was admitted to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital on two separate occasions, once in December 2010 and once in February 2011, according to testimony. On both occasions, the child — who was just 6 weeks old when first admitted — had subdural hemorrhaging, or blood in her brain. In February 2011, she also had retinal hemorrhaging, according to testimony from the two doctors who examined her on those dates.
Both doctors testified that the injuries were consistent with an individual using violent force against the child, like vigorous shaking, they suggested.
Blacksburg police Det. Ryan Hite testified in August that when he spoke to Boyce in December 2010, Boyce initially stated that he did not know how his daughter’s injuries occurred. Later that day, however, Hite said that Boyce became emotional during a subsequent interview. Boyce told Hite that the night before his daughter was admitted to the hospital the first time, he tripped while holding his daughter, causing her to fall out of his hands, according to Hite’s testimony.
Both doctors who treated the child testified in August that the fall would not have created enough force to cause the hemorrhaging. Hite also testified in August that Boyce told him in a February 2011 interview that he often played with his daughter, throwing her in the air and catching her, bouncing her on his knee and doing football-like moves in his living room while his daughter was in a baby harness attached to him.
Both doctors again testified that those activities would not cause the hemorrhaging.
The child has recovered from her injuries, according to court testimony.
Boyce did not speak during today’s hearing, but his lawyer Melvin Hill argued that the prosecution never established that the child suffered abusive head trauma. Hill said the child had been born with a bleeding disorder, which may have caused the hemorrhaging.
Hill also reiterated that the prosecution could not prove that Boyce was responsible.
“There is no evidence whatsoever that Mr. Boyce did anything to this child, either negligently or intentionally,” Hill said.
Manor said in court today that someone injured the child, and before both incidences, Boyce had been the primary caretaker for a period of time.
“We know the child didn’t create the injuries herself,” Manor said.
Boyce was released after his March 2011 arrest on a $5,000 unsecured bond. He was suspended from Tech football team and transferred to Norfolk State in August 2011, where he continues to play football. According to Norfolk State’s online football roster, Boyce is a senior and plays as a wide receiver.