Trial Starts for Kentucky Man Accused in 4-Year-Old’s Death

ELIZABETHTOWN—A Kentucky man accused of killing his 4-year-old foster son is now on trial for the boy’s death.

The Courier Journal reports the trial of 34-year-old Billy Embry-Martin started on Wednesday, May 15.

Hunter Payton died two years ago from head injuries.

He was removed from his parents’ home by the state just two months earlier over alleged drug abuse and neglect.

Embry-Martin’s lawyer, James Hafley, says Payton was eating at his foster home’s kitchen island when he fell and struck his head. He was hospitalized and later died.

“Hafley said Payton died after he fell from a bench while eating a snack in the kitchen of his foster home, striking his head. He said his client is innocent of murder,” according to the Courier.

“This is a tragic accident and not a murder case,” Hafley added.

A state medical examiner ruled the injuries were inflicted and not accidental. Payton suffered a massive skull fracture and other injuries including cuts and bruises unlikely to be caused by falling.

“The University of Louisville Division of Pediatric Forensic Medicine reviewed the case and told news outlets that Payton’s injuries are to be caused by ‘inflicted child abuse,'” the Courier reported.

An investigation by Radcliff Police and Child Protective Services led to Embry-Martin being charged with murder last year.

Hardin Circuit Judge Ken Howard says he expects the trial to last a week.

As Many as 8 Children Die of Abuse and Neglect Every Day: Report

According to a new report, about 1,500 to 3,000 children in America die from abuse and neglect each year, but a federal agency said the deaths can be prevented.

The investigation found that four to eight children die daily in the United States due to abuse or neglect from parents or caregivers. The report also revealed that the victims are overwhelmingly very young. Approximately half are less than a year old, and 75 percent are under the age of three.

“Our current network of services and supports does not adequately ensure safety for children because much of it is reactionary after a death has occurred,” said Chairman Dr. David Sanders.

The findings indicated three groups of children who present unique challenges when it comes to preventing child abuse and neglect fatalities: those currently known to children protective services system; American Indian/Alaska Native boys and girls for whom little or no data exists; and African-Americans who die at a rate that is two-and-a-half times more than that of white or Hispanic children.

According to the investigation, a call to a child protection hotline is the best predictor of a child’s risk of injury death before age 5.

Denisse Moreno, NTD News staff, and The Associated Press contributed to this article.