Father's testimony scrutinized in trial over twins' deaths

Shweta Karikehalli | The Daily StarDefense Attorney Andrew Van Buren, far left, standing, questions Thomas Hewitt, facing camera, right, at the Otsego County Court House on Tuesday, March 3. Otsego County Court Judge John Lambert presides in the center. 

COOPERSTOWN — In the second day of Kimberly Steeley's trial Tuesday, March 3, the father of Steeley's twin infants whose deaths she is accused of causing, said two prior testimonies he gave conflicted with each other. 

Thomas Hewitt of East Worcester is Steeley's ex-boyfriend. Steeley was charged with two counts of second-degree manslaughter for the June 2018 deaths of their twins, Bonde and Liam. The children were less than 2 months old when they died 11 days apart, both of asphyxiation, and both after sleeping in bed with her and Hewitt, in the East Worcester home they all shared with Steeley's parents.

If convicted, Steeley could face up to 30 years in prison — 15 years for each charge, Otsego County District Attorney John Muehl said. 

Defense Attorney Andrew Van Buren read Hewitt a portion of the transcript from the May 2019 grand jury proceeding wherein Hewitt implied Steeley killed the children.

"What you said to the grand jury was, 'I didn’t know she was a murderer.' You said that in the grand jury, correct," Van Buren asked, to which Hewitt responded with "OK."

Later in the May 2019 transcript, one of the grand jurors asked Hewitt how he knew Steeley killed the babies.

"You just said 'I just know it, I just know it in my heart,'" Van Buren asked Hewitt to confirm saying in May 2019, which he said he did.

However, when Van Buren questioned him about another proceeding in October 2019, Hewitt testified to having taken back what he said in May 2019 about Steeley being a murderer.

"Isn't it true in a prior proceeding, on October 15, 2019, under oath, you testified that 'When I said she murdered the babies, that she was a murderer, I lied about that.' Isn't that true?" Van Buren asked.

Hewitt said he was just speculating in May 2019 and that he changed his story five months later because he was trying to protect and stick up for her. However, when Muehl asked him about the two conflicting prior testimonies, Hewitt said he lied during the October 2019 one and was under the influence of narcotics. Hewitt testified Tuesday that he's been sober since he checked himself into a rehabilitation facility in December 2019. 

Muehl asked Hewitt why he would lie to protect Steeley.

"I just don't have the answer for that, man," Hewitt said. "I was a lost soul, I lost my kids. She called me up ... I just don't have the answer for that."

Hewitt said he and Steeley broke up sometime after the babies died. When Muehl asked Hewitt if he was still in love with Steeley when he gave testimony in October 2019, he said he was and that he still loved her. 

Van Buren asked Hewitt to confirm he stormed into his law office in the summer of 2019 to tell him that Steeley didn't harm the babies. Hewitt said he did, and said he was under the impression that Muehl said Hewitt watched Steeley smother the babies. 

"I was misinformed, I just wanted you to know that," Hewitt said Tuesday in explanation of the summer 2019 meeting with Van Buren. "I didn't watch Kimberly Steeley smother the babies. I woke up, it was too late, I couldn't save them, that's the facts. I wanted to go to her attorney and get to the bottom of it because if that's what they said, I wanted to stick up for myself."

Muehl asked Hewitt to give his account of each of the nights the twins died. Hewitt said he found Bonde, who died June 5, 2018, unresponsive in her bassinet after she fell asleep in Hewitt and Steeley's bed. In the early morning hours of June 16, 2018, Hewitt said he discovered Steeley slumped over on Liam and tried to push her off of the infant. Both times, Steeley's father attempted to revive the children with CPR, he said. 

Hewitt said he lied to police when questioned shortly after the deaths, saying the children were put to bed in the bassinet because Steeley and her mother told him to do so. 

The trial continues at the courthouse Wednesday.  

Shweta Karikehalli, staff writer, can be reached at skarikehalli@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7221. Follow her @DS_ShwetaK on Twitter.

Recommended for you