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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, May 23, 2003

New trial begins in death of baby

By David Waite
Advertiser Courts Writer

A Salt Lake baby girl died of a massive head injury three weeks after a sitter cared for her, and the sitter is responsible for the death, the prosecution told a Circuit Court yesterday.

But lawyer Michael Green said evidence in the jury-waived trial will show that his client, Earlily Aganon, never intended to cause the death of 6-month-old Karie Canencia, who died on Oct. 24, 1997.

Aganon is on trial for the second time in the case.

Green said doctors at Kapi'olani Medical Center mistakenly believed the baby had a possible encephalitis or meningitis infection, and never treated her for what was a severe brain injury. Green, in his opening statement before Circuit Judge Karl Sakamoto, did not say how the girl was injured.

But city Deputy Prosecutor Glenn Kim said Honolulu Medical Examiner Kanthi Von Guenthner will testify that the girl suffered a type of brain injury that could only have resulted from someone slamming her head repeatedly against a wall or onto the floor.

Aganon was found guilty in February 2000 of killing the baby at her Salt Lake home, but in December 2001, the Hawai'i Supreme Court ordered a new trial.

In a unanimous decision, the five high court found that the jury had been given improper instructions after seeking clarification of a legal point during deliberations.

Aganon, now 33, was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after being convicted of second-degree murder. She was ordered to serve at least 15 years before being considered for parole.

During the first trial, Aganon denied she had injured the child, and said the infant developed breathing problems while sleeping.

In opening statements yesterday, Green said Aganon was so concerned about the baby's breathing troubles that she called the mother twice within 15 minutes.

Kim said that when the baby's parents, Jocelyn and Randy Canencia, entered Aganon's home, Aganon walked out of a bedroom other than the one in which they found their daughter lying on a mat on the floor, her body stiff, her fists clenched and her eyes rolled back in her head.

The parents rushed the girl to the hospital, Kim said. The baby was declared brain dead Oct. 24, 1997, three days after she was taken to the hospital, Kim said.

The trial is expected to last about a week.