Convicted Washington Township child killer to receive new trial due to withheld evidence

Judge orders retrial for Ronald Dimambro due to 32 withheld autopsy photos

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Ronald Dimambro was previously convicted in the murder of 2-year-old Damian Sutton. (WDIV)

WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. - A Washington Township man who was previously convicted of killing his friend's 2-year-old son will receive a new trial.

Ronald Anthony Dimambro, 30, was found guilty of first-degree murder by a jury in the 2013 death of Damian Sutton. The child died Aug. 27, 2013, days after being injured while under the care of Dimambro at the Washington Township home.

"I'm in shock," Damian's mother, Nicole Sutton, said. "It's a living nightmare. I can't go through this again."

Autopsy photos withheld from trial

The Supreme Court denied an appeal of an Appeals Court ruling which reversed Dimambro's murder conviction over 32 autopsy pictures that were withheld by the prosecution and medical examiner.

Macomb County prosecutors asked the Appeals Court to reconsider the significance of the 32 pictures in question, but the appeal was denied.

"I would remand this case to the Court of Appeals for reconsideration of the materiality of the photographs in relation to the totality of the evidence presented at trial," Justice Brian Zahra wrote in a dissenting opinion.

Zahra argued the conviction should only be reversed based on the 32 photos if the court felt there was a chance the evidence could change the outcome of the trial. He said the petitioner failed to provide reasonable probability that the evidence would result in a different verdict.

"Although the Court of Appeals majority concluded that the suppression of the photographs was material, it failed to view the suppressed evidence in relation to the totality of all the other relevant evidence, including evidence supporting the defendant's conviction, in reaching that conclusion," the dissenting opinion said.

Possible significance of photos

Judge Jennifer Faunce ordered a new trial for Dimambro in 2016 after presiding over the original trial. Faunce said the 32 photos might have led to a different verdict.

Some of the most critical testimony in Dimambro's conviction came from medical experts who said Damian was killed by two blows to the head.

If the withheld autopsy photos suggest Damian's brain injury was caused by a single blow, Dimambro's claim that Damian's injuries were accidental could be reconsidered, according to medical officials.

During the trial, Dimambro's lawyer said an earlier head injury had contributed to the child's death. He said the unsupervised child had fallen off a bar stool.

"They hear a big thud. It's a thud. This is a kitchen floor," defense attorney Randy Rodnick said.

Medical experts said the head trauma was not accidental, but intentionally inflicted.

"Damian was abused. I think this is child abuse," said Dr. Mary Lu Angelilli, of Children's Hospital.

More about the case

Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham said Dimambro called 911 to report Sutton was having an asthma attack. Wickersham said the then-26-year-old man later admitted he had shaken the child.

Before the incident, Dimambro had a criminal history that included domestic violence and impaired driving.

Damian died due to blunt force trauma after spending several days in a medically-induced coma at Children's Hospital.

Dimambro was caring for his friend's toddler when the incident happened. The boy's mother, Nicole Sutton, was at work. It was her first day on the on the job.

Dimambro was initially charged with first-degree child abuse, but he was also charged with first-degree murder after Damian died.

Damian's parents speak in court

"Before Damian was born, there was nothing good in my life," said Damian's father, Timothy. "I was making wrong decisions constantly. I was in and out of trouble. I had nothing going for me. Damian was born on June 4, 2011. I was 22 years old at the time. I cannot explain how nervous I was. The only thing on my mind was hoping and praying that I had everything ready for when he got here."

While addressing the court at Dimambro's sentencing, Nicole Sutton called him a "demon."

"I hope what he did to Damian haunts him until eternity," she said. "When I lost my Damian, I died inside."

The mother held up a blanket she said she had wrapped her son in during his last breaths.

"My son was all I had in this world ... Damian was fueled by love." she said. "My son will find a way back to me, because I am his mommy."

You can view the full dissenting opinion below:

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