Dylan Schumaker admitted hitting and spanking his girlfriend’s toddler son when the child spit out his food and used an obscenity.
The 16-year-old also admitted slamming the 23-month-old child’s head into the floor when he was trying to change his diaper as the toddler kicked and screamed and his girlfriend’s 3-month-old baby slept nearby.
And he admitted turning the toddler over on his bed, putting a pillow over the back of his head and punching the pillow three times.
About 45 minutes later, he put the boy to bed. He later checked on him and noticed he was sweating so he stripped him down to his diaper and returned to texting with friends about drugs and sex. He had been texting off and on for more than three hours after his girlfriend left for work around 5 p.m.
But when he heard “funny sounds” and “choking noises” coming from the child’s room, he checked on him again and found an unresponsive toddler with his eyes half open.
He ran downstairs from the second-floor bedroom in his mother’s Springville home where he lived with his 19-year-old girlfriend and her two children. He told his mother what had happened, and she told him to call 911, while she called his girlfriend at work.
But it was too late. Austin Smith was dead, and Dylan Schumaker – who was babysitting him and the infant – was soon charged as an adult with second-degree murder.
But did he intentionally kill Austin on March 19?
Intent is key in the teenager’s murder trial, because the indictment charges him with second-degree murder with intent to kill and intent must be proven to convict him of the charge.
The prosecutors say the blows to the toddler’s head were intentional and prove Schumaker intended to kill Austin, who died from multiple blunt force trauma to the head, which caused brain bleeding and death, according to the medical examiner.
The defense says Schumaker did not realize that the blows would kill Austin and that he did not intend to kill him.
A jury has been listening to witnesses at the murder trial since Tuesday in a downtown Buffalo courtroom. They are expected to start deliberating Monday after summations and legal instructions from State Supreme Court Justice M. William Boller.
Schumaker, who has been charged as an adult, took the stand in his own defense Thursday and was cross-examined Friday before the defense rested and the jury went home for the weekend.
He told how he lived for six months last year and early this year at Renaissance House, a residence for youths trying to overcome addiction problems. He said he had been using marijuana, LSD and psychedelic mushrooms before a Family Court judge ordered him into the Renaissance drug rehabilitation program.
After completing it, he returned to his family’s home on Cochran Avenue in Springville and attended Hopevale Academy.
In late January or early February, his girlfriend, Ashlee Smith, and her two sons moved in with him and his mother. Her parents had kicked her out of their home, and she could not find a place to live.
Before Smith moved in, Schumaker said they had discussed the possibility that he might be the father of her younger son, Kris, who was born in December.
Austin was Smith’s son by another man, who lived nearby.
Schumaker said it was a difficult living arrangement. He was still in school and working weekends. Two children lived in the house, and his girlfriend worked nights at Pizza Hut.
He said that when Smith went to work around 5, he would take care of Kris, and her parents or Austin’s father would take care of the toddler.
“There was a lot going on,” he told defense attorney Joseph J. Terranova.
He also testified that in February he stopped taking medications that he had been prescribed for anger and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
On March 18, he and Smith got into an argument that escalated as she hit him with a pillow, and he shoved her to the floor.
They agreed that the arguing was not good for the children and that she and the boys would move out by the end of the week.
The next day, Smith offered to stay home and watch the boys, but Schumaker told her to go to work because she needed the money. He agreed to watch both boys. It would be only the second time he had baby-sat both children.
Smith gave him instructions on taking care of them and when to spank Austin if he misbehaved. She testified that she told him to call her parents or Austin’s father if he needed help. She then left for work.
Schumaker said Austin was taking a nap but apparently got out of his bed and fell down the stairs. He said he was in another room and didn’t see him fall but heard two thumps and went to investigate.
He found Austin laying on the landing, about five steps down from the upstairs,
He said he saw a bruise on the boy’s cheek and some blood from his mouth because he had bitten his tongue. The toddler cried but otherwise appeared fine, he said. He texted Smith about the fall.
After wiping the blood from Austin’s mouth, Schumaker took him upstairs, gave him some juice, turned on the TV and left him watching Sponge Bob while he resumed texting friends.
He said he later heated up some food and brought it up to Austin, who spit it out and directed an obscenity his way. That’s when he said he slapped Austin’s face and spanked him. The boy stopped swearing and resumed eating.
Before dinner, Schumaker said, he changed Austin’s diaper, starting on the bed, then moving to the floor because it was easier.
He said Austin didn’t want him to change his diaper. The toddler wanted to get up and started kicking.
“I forced him back down,” Schumaker said. “He hit his head on the floor.”
Terranova asked him why he later put a pillow over Austin’s head in the bedroom and punched the back of his head three times.
“Something happened,” Schumaker said. “I got mad and reacted in a horrible way. I don’t remember the cause.”
“Were you trying to murder that boy?” Terranova asked.
“No,” Schumaker replied and started crying.
“What were you trying to do?” the attorney asked.
“I’m not sure,” Schumaker said.
“Did you think he would die from ... being slapped and punched in the head?” Terranova asked.
“No, I don’t think I could kill anybody,” Schumaker said.
“I didn’t intend to kill him,” he later told his attorney.
While all this was going on, he admitted that between 5 and 8:21 p.m., when he called 911, he had sent or received about 150 text messages, including 94 with one girl whom he knew but had not contacted in a long time.
“During this texting, Austin needed attention?” homicide prosecutor Colleen Curtin Gable asked Schumaker, citing needs like dinner, a diaper change, a bath and pajamas for bed.
“Yes,” Schumaker said.
“Were you upset that he was interfering with your texting?” the prosecutor asked.
“No,” he said.
Curtin Gable asked Schumaker about slamming Austin’s head on the floor while changing him and intentionally putting a pillow over his head and punching it three times.
He admitted that he knew that head injuries can be dangerous, life threatening and fatal.
“You harmed Austin?” she said.
“Yes,” he said.
“No one else” did this? she said.
“Yes,” he said.
“You are responsible for his death?” she said.
“Yes,” he said as his attorney objected. The judge sustained the objection.
He also admitted that until he called 911 that night he never sought help from his mother who was downstairs, Smith’s parents or Austin’s father.