Court documents: Man accused in 2013 Athol murder case said boy’s injuries caused by fall

  • Christopher Vinsant, 30, of Athol enters Superior Court in Northampton on Monday, April 10, 2017, for arraignment on charges of murder and assault and battery on a child causing serious bodily injury in connection with the July 10, 2013, death of Isaiah Buckner, 10, of Athol.

Recorder Staff
Published: 4/11/2017 6:04:45 PM

Court papers offer insight into the case against Christopher Vinsant in the death of 10-year-old Isaiah Buckner nearly four years ago.

Vinsant, 30, was arraigned on charges of first degree murder and assault and battery on a child with substantial injuries on Monday after a Franklin County grand jury indicted Vinsant on Friday in connection with the Athol death. Vinsant, who was Buckner’s mother’s boyfriend at the time, pleaded not guilty to the two charges and is being held without bail.

Buckner was in Vinsant’s care when he was taken to the hospital with abdominal trauma, from which he later died, according to the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office. Family and friends, according to the court filing, said the child was in good spirits and eating dinner on July 7, 2013. That next morning, however, Buckner was transported to the Athol Memorial Hospital where emergency responders said the boy did not have a pulse and was not breathing. EMS responders were able to get a pulse on the boy, who was then airlifted by LifeFlight to UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester where he was pronounced dead on July 10, 2013.

According to the court papers, Vinsant told authorities that the child was vomiting on the morning of July 8, 2013.

The filings state that the results of the autopsy, performed by Mindy Hull from the Massachusetts Office of the chief Medical Examiner, were pending for nearly two years, and the office ultimately said the cause of death was undetermined.

Felix Browne, a spokesman for the Medical Examiner’s Office, said the office cannot comment on specific investigations or why this specific case was pending for two years.

“While certain cases come to a resolution fairly quickly, some require a more far reaching investigation that may call in outside experts or require additional testing,” Browne said. “The ME’s office works to complete investigations in a timely manner, but thoroughness and accuracy come first.”

In the filings, the pediatric surgeon who operated on Buckner said he had a “transected jejunum,” a severe abdominal injury, and said the injury was rare and typically results from a serious trauma like an auto accident or a fall from several stories. The injury can also be the result of an intentionally inflicted trauma, according to the doctor in the court filings.

In interviews with family and friends, they were not able to account for the injury and said Buckner was happy and well the night before.

Because of the narrative provided by the interviews, the DA’s office said Buckner was alone with Vinsant during the time of the injury. Vinsant later told authorities that Buckner had fallen on a play structure the day before being taken to the hospital, but video evidence does not confirm this story, according to the documents.

A doctor from the New Hampshire Medical Examiner’s office, who was brought in for a second opinion, reviewed the medical records and determined the death was a homicide. The New Hampshire Medical Examiner’s office said the injury was caused intentionally and not caused by the fall Vinsant described.

After seven days of testimony and evidence, the Grand Jury voted last week to indict Vinsant on the two charges.

According to the District Attorney’s Office, Vinsant is scheduled to return to Franklin Superior Court for a pretrial hearing on Sept. 8.

Reach Miranda Davis at
413-772-0261, ext. 280
or mdavis@recorder.com.


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