In an action culminating a 15-month investigation, Delaware State Police, working with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, have arrested a Dover Air Force Base airman in connection with the death of a child in 2012.
Staff Sgt. Justin Kyle Corbett, 25, was taken into custody at his home on Hickory Lane, Dover, on Feb. 18, said Delaware State Police spokesman Sgt. Paul Shavack.
Corbett is implicated in the death of Evan J. Dudley, 21 months, on Nov. 7, 2012. Evan had been entrusted to Corbett's care while his mother, Staff Sgt. Nicole Dudley, was deployed.
Both Corbett and Dudley were assigned to the 436th Logistics Readiness Squadron at the base.
Child was 'healthy and normal' before incident
According to Shavack and the warrant of probable cause, released by Justice of the Peace Court 7, Dover, the incident began at 3:52 p.m. Nov. 3, 2012, when Corbett called the 911 emergency center from his then-home in the 1000 block of Avocado Avenue in the base housing area. Corbett requested assistance for Evan, saying the child was unresponsive after falling down a flight of eight carpeted stairs.
According to the arrest warrant, witnesses reported Evan appeared to be healthy and normal the day before the incident. Evan had been left in Corbett's charge during the day, and Corbett was the only adult in the home.
Evan first was taken by ambulance to Bayhealth-Kent General Hospital, Dover, for initial assessment and care, and later transferred to the Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, Wilmington, where he was admitted in critical condition with head trauma and multiple bruises on his body, Shavack said.
Evan was pronounced dead at 12:02 a.m. on Nov. 7, at the duPont hospital.
An autopsy by the Delaware Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on Nov. 7 determined Evan suffered multiple injuries including retinal and other eye injuries, multiple contusions on his head, and brain swelling and bleeding. The cause of death was ruled a homicide by blunt force trauma.
Shavack said a thorough and comprehensive investigation by Delaware State Police and review by the Delaware Attorney General's Office followed, with the case being submitted for analysis to a child abuse expert and pediatric pathologist due to the discovery of undisclosed unique injuries noted during the autopsy. After a lengthy assessment and evaluation of the complex case, both experts agreed that the child was the victim of a homicide.
State Police troopers and AFOSI agents went to Corbett's current home on Hickory Lane, Dover, on Feb. 18, and took him into custody without incident.
Corbett was taken to Troop 3, Camden, and formally charged with murder by abuse or neglect by recklessly causing the death of a child, a Class A felony. Conviction under a Class A felony could bring a sentence of no less than 15 years to life imprisonment.
Page 2 of 3 - Corbett was arraigned and committed to the James T. Vaughn Correctional Facility, Smyrna, in default of a $100,000 cash bond.
Air base reaction
436th Airlift Wing vice commander Col. Randall S. Huiss said the command staff at the base had been notified of Corbett's arrest.
“We are aware of Staff Sgt. Justin Corbett's arrest in connection to the case concerning the death of Evan Dudley,” Huiss said in a statement released by the public affairs office.
“The Air Force has maintained a strong partnership with the various state agencies during the investigation. We are hopeful that the end result will be closure for Staff Sgt. Nicole Dudley, and we remain committed to providing any support for the state of Delaware as they move towards resolution.
“We look forward to a timely result,” Huiss said.
Jason Miller, spokesman for Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, said the complexity of child abuse cases was a prime reason for the delay in bringing charges against Corbett.
“The charging decision was made after a thorough review of the investigative file and consultation with additional medical experts,” he said.
The burden of proof is on the state in criminal cases, and in homicides depends on more than a medical examiner's decision as filed on a death certificate, Miller said, adding he could not discuss the evidence that led to a decision to make an arrest.
“Now that an arrest has been made, the state is charged with presenting to the court and the jury its evidence of guilt, and we do not comment about evidence in a pending criminal case,” Miller said. “Our prosecutors have remained in touch with the victim's mother to keep her informed about the status of the investigation.”
Corbett is scheduled for a preliminary hearing Feb. 21 at the Kent County Court of Common Pleas.
ORIGINAL STORY ----------------------------
Delaware State Police, working with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, have arrested a Dover Air Force Base airman in connection with the death of a child in 2012.
Staff Sgt. Justin K. Corbett, 25, was taken into custody at his home on Hickory Lane, Dover, on Feb. 18, said Delaware State Police spokesman Sgt. Paul Shavack.
Corbett is implicated in the death of Evan J. Dudley, 21 months, on Nov. 7, 2012; while the boy's mother was deployed overseas. An initial ambulance call indicated Evan had fallen down a flight of stairs, Shavack said, but an autopsy showed he had suffered multiple injuries including retinal and other eye injuries, multiple contusions on his head, and brain swelling and bleeding. The cause of death was ruled homicide by blunt force trauma.
During a 15-month investigation, the case was submitted for review to a child abuse expert and pediatric pathologist, and after their lengthy review and evaluation of the complex case, both experts agreed the child was the victim of a homicide.
Page 3 of 3 - Corbett has been charged with murder by abuse or neglect and recklessly causing the death of a child. He has been jailed at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, Smyrna, in default of a $100,000 cash bond.