The murder trial of Matthew Wagoner, a 31-year-old dad charged with the murder and continuous abuse of his one-year-old daughter, Zoey Lee Wagoner, last May, is set to open in Hancock County, Indiana, on Monday. The mom of Baby Zoey, Jessica Wagoner, is also charged with murder, but will be tried separately.
Jessica Wagoner, 33, who filed for divorce from Matthew Wagoner shortly after the pair were arrested last May 29, is listed on prosecution filings as a witness against the accused dad, though whether she will testify in what is expected to be an approximately 10-day trial is not yet clear.
Zoey Wagoner was a child described as cheerful and happy despite the torture she allegedly suffered by hands of her own parents during her one year on Earth.
Last June, Jessica Wagner petitioned the court to move her own trial out of Hancock County, saying that biased news reporting and "public hostility" had poisoned her chances of a fair trial there. The death of Zoey Lee Wagoner caused a sensation in the small, 21,000-population town of Greenfield, Indiana, last summer.
Zoey Wagoner was born on May 12 of 2014 in Carmel, Indiana, according to her obituary.
"Zoey was a very loving, happy, bubbly baby with the prettiest red hair and most infectious smile possible," the obituary read. "She loved dogs and her sausage gravy."But, in court documents, an investigator on the case said that Zoey "had lived in hell for a year, due to all of the multiple injuries throughout the year."
Matthew Wagoner heads to court, charged with murder and neglect of a dependent resulting in death of his daughter. pic.twitter.com/UNbaIX32Q5
— Julie Pursley (@JuliePursley6) June 2, 2015
Zoey Wagoner's parents, Matthew and Jessica, pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and neglect this morning. pic.twitter.com/k5kcnlxaPT
— Greenfield DR (@GreenfieldDR) June 2, 2015
According to a report in the Greenfield Daily Reporter newspaper, Jessica Wagoner three times violated a signed agreement with the State Department of Child Services in which she pledged to keep Zoey away from her dad, Matthew, who was under investigation for sex crimes against children.
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Matthew Wagoner faces separate charges on two counts of child molestation, and one count of child exploitation in connection with an incident in which police say he raped a young girl who was staying at his home and sexually fondled another girl in November of 2013. Wagoner reportedly took pictures of the genital area of one of the girls, pictures that were later discovered on his cell phone.
One of those two girls was Wagoner's own nine-year-old daughter, according to a report by WRTV-TV in Indiana.
The following news video contains details on the child-murder trial of Matthew Wagoner.
A coroner found that one-year-old Zoey died from massive internal injuries last May, including a lacerated liver, and severe damage to her intestines and pancreas. The coroner's report said that the injuries indicated that someone stomped on the baby.
Zoey's body also bore numerous other injuries, including two partially healed broken arms, broken blood vessels in her eyeballs, and bruises and hemorrhages on her face, torso and buttocks.
On Monday, a jury of a seven women and five men was selected and heard Matthew Wagoner's lawyer tell them that there was no evidence demonstrating beyond reasonable doubt that the dad caused his daughter's horrendous, and fatal injuries.
They also heard Deputy prosecutor John Keiffner tell them that those injuries, including the horrifying lacerations to her liver, would have caused excruciating pain to the helpless little girl as she finally slipped into a coma and passed away.
The murdered child's aunt posted the below memorial video on YouTube, writing the following statement on her YouTube page.
"This is about Zoey Lee Wagoner my niece who was killed by her parents she was 12 1/2 months old R.I.P. SWEET ZOEY YOU WILL BE REMEMBERED AND NOT ANOTHER FACELESS NAME OF MURDERED CHILDREN...."
Both Matthew and Jessica Wagoner initially denied harming Zoey, claiming the baby fell out of bed — but their stories shifted numerous times and they soon began accusing each other of child abuse. Matthew Wagoner claimed that Zoey's mom would often become violent with the baby, punching her hard in the stomach.
The dad was seen the same day that Zoey died taking the child for a walk in a stroller, past a hospital without stopping, to a convenience store where he purchased a soft drink. Investigators believed that the child was already dead when Wagoner took her out in the stroller; the walk may have been part of the dad's attempt to conceal the murder.
A psychological evaluation was performed on Matthew Wagner by court order, but the results have not been made public and no change in the trial date was announced.
Matthew Wagoner faces up to 65 years behind bars if he is convicted of killing his daughter, Zoey Wagoner.
[Photos by Hancock County Jail]