NAPLES — In the last months of her short life, 2-year-old Abigail Rose Boran was hit on the head with a plastic telephone, dropped on her head, tossed and not caught, shoved backward and had a blanket pulled out from underneath her — all causing her to hit her head.
Those are among the admissions Collier Sheriff’s detectives Ray Wilkinson and David Hurm coaxed out of Todd Allen Akers, then 24, during his three-hour interrogation in May 2006. Now his lawyer wants to prevent jurors from hearing the videotaped confession if he goes to trial on premeditated first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse charges.
Akers admitted he’d taken out his frustrations on his then-fiancée, Nicole Lee Napier’s, baby because he’d been beaten as a child, they had financial problems, were late on rent, had to return their furniture, he’d just buried his father and Abby wouldn’t stop crying after hitting her head.
The 6-foot man demonstrated how he cradled the crying toddler and let her drop four feet, onto her head.
“You almost sound like you’re kind of like just throwing this Abigail around the house ... kind of like a basketball. ... Is that true?” Wilkinson asked after Akers detailed how he’d abused Abby over three months and on May 5, 2006, which led to the 33-pound toddler’s death on May 7, 2006, when she was taken off life support.
“No,” Akers said, adding that he’d just dropped her. “This is stuff I don’t mean to do.”
“... I love being with her,” Akers said later.
“That’s a strange kind of love, huh?” Wilkinson said shortly before arresting Akers after 1 a.m. May 6, 2006.
That was hours after Abby was rushed to the hospital from the couple’s apartment at The Enclave in East Naples. Akers has been in the county jail since his arrest, a day before Abby died of six skull fractures.
An autopsy shows bruises on her scalp, chest, thighs, lower leg, stomach, back, upper arm, wrist — and hemorrhages. The fractures were “high-velocity” injuries, not from being dropped, and brain injuries suggested she might have been shaken. She would have been 3 on June 4.
Akers faces an automatic life prison sentence, with no parole.
Court-appointed attorney Kevin Shirley of Punta Gorda is trying to suppress the videotaped confession, arguing detectives used “unduly coercive techniques,” false or misleading statements, contradictions, accusations and suggestions of grief to obtain “inherently unreliable” statements.
Circuit Judge Fred Hardt didn’t rule on the motion Tuesday after hearing the confession. A defense expert, a psychologist, hasn’t given a deposition, which is needed before he can testify at the hearing. Shirley and Assistant State Attorney Steve Maresca return to court Nov. 8 for a conference.
Napier wasn’t in court, but State Attorney’s Office and Project Help victim advocates were. The baby’s father, Ryan Boran, 32, died in August.
Akers said he and Napier had been together seven months and moved here in February. He worked as a beer deliveryman and she worked at Macy’s and a bar.
Initially, he maintained Abby hit her head falling out of bed and was injured at a day care center. “She’s always saying, ‘My head hurts, my head hurts.’ “ That evening, Akers said he got her sippy cup, heard a “thump” and found her lying by her “Dora the Explorer” bed. He said he cradled her and called 911 because she was gasping, going out of consciousness.
“She started tensing up and throwing up everything she ate that day,” he said, adding he screamed, “Abby, look at daddy.”
Wilkinson prodded, trying to catch inconsistencies, later asking: “Do you love her?”
“Love her to death. That’s why I’m with Nikki,” he replied.
Wilkinson questioned how he disciplined her, but he denied hitting her. “I grew up in an abusive family. I would never do that,” Akers explained, adding that he was smacked and whipped with a belt until he was 12.
The former N.Y. City detective with 38 years’ experience, told Akers he didn’t believe his story. “You know why? Because I talked to the doctor,” Wilkinson said.
He said he and Hurm understood he was upset, he’d just buried his father and they were having financial troubles. Akers began crying. “Uh huh,” he said, wiping tears.
Wilkinson demanded: “Now what happened?”
Akers maintained there was nothing more. They kept pressing. At times, Akers’ knee jiggled nervously. He then admitted she’d fallen and hit her head kicking a beachball that day, adding, “It was a pretty hard thud.”
Wilkinson didn’t believe him. “You know what? She’s going to wake up, she’s going to come home ... and she’s going to say ‘That’s not what happened.’ ” He asked if he’d dropped her. “I still think you’re holding back.”
Akers wouldn’t budge. After being asked to take a polygraph, however, he admitted he’d dropped her. “She fell and went straight on her head,” he said, demonstrating.
Akers began crying, but Wilkinson told him, “You did the right thing.” Akers said it felt good getting it off his chest. Still, Wilkinson contended he was holding back.
“I’ll let go,” Akers said, showing how he’d also picked her up and she fell backward, on her head, gasping. “It just happened.” He called 911 because she wasn’t moving and her eyes were rolling back. “I thought she was dead.”
Then detectives revealed she had six skull fractures. He’d explained three. “Clear your soul,” they urged.
He conceded: “I’ve pushed her before.”
Wilkinson pushed, asking him to be truthful. Akers said he jerked a blanket out from under her.
“Do you see a pattern here Todd?” Wilkinson asked. “... Now she’s in the hospital. What else have you done to her?”
He admitted he was holding her and just let her fall because she wouldn’t stop crying and hit her on the head once with her plastic telephone weeks before.