Hours leading to death in focus at trial

GREENFIELD — In the hours before Zoey Wagoner died, her father was told multiple times by strangers and friends that he needed to seek help for his young daughter. In the days that followed the 1-year-old’s death, Matthew Wagoner appeared to be haunted by what happened to his daughter and attempted to take his own life twice.

As the trial against 31-year-old Wagoner resumed Tuesday, prosecutors continued their attempts to prove the defendant was the last person to see the little girl alive and likely caused the injuries that killed her.

Testimony on Tuesday morning attempted to paint a picture of Wagoner’s mental state following his daughter’s death, and witnesses called Tuesday afternoon helped establish who lived at the home in the 500 block of Wood Street in Greenfield and who was home when Zoey was found unresponsive May 28.

Zoey Wagoner died after sustaining multiple blunt-force trauma injuries, and her death was ruled a homicide by coroners, according to court documents. Her father, who is represented by defense attorney Jeff McClarnon of Greenfield, is standing trail this week in Hancock County Superior Court 1, where he faces charges of murder and neglect of a dependent resulting in death. The child’s mother, Jessica Wagoner, faces the same charges.

Three officers from the Greenfield Police Department took the stand Tuesday morning and described Matthew Wagoner as distraught when police arrived at his home that day. Officers said they heard Wagoner express disappointment in himself and make suicidal comments immediately after Zoey died.

Following his arrest May 29, Wagoner was admitted to Hancock Regional Hospital for a medical evaluation after police became concerned about his behavior, investigators said.

Greenfield Police Department officer Chris Borgmann testified Tuesday he was guarding Wagoner’s hospital room May 30 when the defendant attempted to take his own life.

Borgmann found Wagoner in the restroom of his hospital room with a belt wrapped around his neck, he said. Wagoner was crying and said “He didn’t want to be here anymore … and he wanted to die,” Borgmann said.

On Tuesday, the jury saw the first images of Zoey Wagoner’s body taken immediately after she died.

Greenfield Police Sgt. Rod Vawter, the department’s lead crime scene technician, photographed the child’s body at the hospital prior to the autopsy. The pictures he took showed marks on the girl’s eyes and abdomen, healing cuts near the left and right temples of her forehead, and heavy bruising along her back and bottom.

In the afternoon, jurors heard from a nurse who said she met Matthew Wagoner at a Greenfield gas station where he’d taken Zoey in the hours before she died. The woman said she encouraged the defendant to take his daughter to the emergency room because it was clear she was having trouble breathing.

Testimony also came from Zoey’s half-siblings and the couple’s landlord, who told jurors Matthew and Jessica Wagoner lived at the house together with the girl and Jessica’s two children from another marriage.

Krista Coffin, who said she was having an affair with the defendant at the time of Zoey’s death, told jurors she regularly watched Zoey as a favor to the child’s mother. She said the child was rarely left alone with Matthew Wagoner, but he was the only one there with the infant when Coffin arrived at the home on Wood Street the day Zoey died.

Coffin testified she’d received a call from Jessica Wagoner on the morning of May 28, when the mother told her Zoey wasn’t breathing and asked Coffin for help.

Coffin said she told Matthew Wagoner to call 911 the moment she met him in the doorway of the home. But Wagoner kept saying, “I can’t. I can’t do it,” and Coffin ultimately used Wagoner’s cellphone to call for help.

Proceedings are scheduled to continue at 9 a.m. today in Hancock Superior Court.

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Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.