OGDEN — The defense has filed motions seeking funds for experts and an investigator, in part to challenge Robert Abbott’s alleged confession to killing his stepdaughter.
Abbott, 31, is charged with first-degree felony child abuse homicide in the Sept. 9 death of 2-year-old Hailey Byrne at their home in Roy.
Police were called to the home in the 1900 block of 4700 South that morning when the girl’s mother called authorities to say that Hailey was unresponsive. Emergency medical responders found the girl dead from apparent suffocation.
The case is Weber County’s only homicide charged this year to date.
According to charging documents, Abbott made incriminating statements that led to his Sept. 9 arrest, admitting to pressing the child’s face into a pillow to stop her crying.
But defense attorney Bernie Allen, hired last month by Abbott’s parents, said his so-called confession is a police extrapolation of his admissions, which doesn’t add up to confession.
“It’s not clear at all that they are confessions,” he said of the statements. “It’s very weak ... I don’t think he did it, I really don’t.”
Allen’s firm has filed several motions seeking money from the county to pay for the defense investigation, including an investigator and experts, both forensic and psychological. The family has covered Abbott’s attorney fees, but not the extra cost, Allen said, and their funds are exhausted.
The motions include having a judge appointed to review the funding requests separate from the judge who would hear the case at trial. Thursday a new motion was filed seeking a court order for the Weber County Jail to provide prescription medications Abbott needs, or release him so he can obtain his medications.
Abbott is scheduled for a preliminary hearing Dec. 9 where those issues will likely be discussed, as well as a defense bid to lower Abbott’s $200,000 bail.
At a Sept. 28 hearing before 2nd District Judge Ernie Jones where prosecutors were successful in raising Abbott’s $20,000 bail to $200,000, the Weber County Attorney’s Office argued Abbott was a threat to himself and others, citing his several days spent in the psychiatric ward at McKay-Dee Hospital after his arrest.
Allen would not comment on Abbott’s mental health except to say he doesn’t think Abbott needs a competency evaluation.
The defense motions for the additional money for expert help in the case are sealed, he said, because the prosecution is not entitled to see the information that would develop unless it’s used at trial.
The sealing of the requests is necessary given the “odd situation” of a defense attorney needing the permission of the prosecution’s office, the opposition, for additional money to bolster the defense’s case, Allen said.
“We’ve always been a little nervous about that,” he said.
The county’s motion in opposition to the defense funding request seeks investigation of the possibility Abbott has access to assets that could cover the needs.
The deceased girl’s mother is married to Abbott, and they have a 1-year-old child together, according to Roy police. Two other children in the home, a 7-year-old girl and a 3-year-old boy, are not related to Abbott. A no-
contact order against Abbott for all the other children has been in effect since Sept. 13.