A Baby Died in 1972. Now, a Trial

'Baby Joey' died from blunt force trauma, and caregiver Gary Warwick is charged
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 1, 2016 7:00 AM CST
Updated Dec 4, 2016 7:35 AM CST
A Baby Died in 1972. Now, a Trial
Gary Warwick   (St. Clair County Sheriff's Office)

An Illinois man will be tried for murder 44 years after a child in his care was found slumped on a toy motorcycle. Gary Warwick was caring for his girlfriend's son in Belleville when he said he found 1-year-old Joey Abernathy unconscious shortly after midnight on Dec. 30, 1972, per the Washington Post. "Baby Joey"—hospitalized weeks earlier with bruises to his face and dog bites on his ears—was pronounced dead of a laceration to his liver caused by blunt force trauma to the stomach. Warwick was accused of beating the boy and charged with murder, but the case was dismissed in 1974 for reasons that remain unclear. However, a court note made reference to Warwick having an eye disease that made him blind, reports the Belleville News-Democrat. One problem with that: He's not blind, and in fact went on to coach high school softball, notes the newspaper.

Joey's mom, Cathie Altman—who was 19 when her son died—never understood why the case was dismissed. "After Joey's death, I just went into a deep, dark hole," but "I promised myself many years ago before I left this Earth, I would do everything I could to see that justice happens," the 63-year-old says, per the Chicago Tribune. In 2013, she asked the St. Clair County Sheriff's Office to reopen the case, which it did, and Warwick, 64, was again arrested. After a series of appeals in which his lawyers argued memories would be "distorted due to [the] passage of time," an appellate court determined a trial should be held. It's now set to begin later this month in St. Clair County. "All I've ever asked for is this day, his trial," Altman says. "I am ready." (A baby's death in 1993 still stumps investigators.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.