A Christian Scientist accused of manslaughter in the death of his young son broke down in tears on the witness stand Wednesday as he described holding the toddler as the child died in his arms.
"I remember holding him, and him being quiet in my arms and shaking, not anything violent, just a quiet shaking, and that wasn't anything long," David Twitchell testified. "After the shaking, the next thing I noticed, he half-closed his eyes. . . . "Twitchell then wept, as did his wife, Ginger, at the defense table. Suffolk County Superior Court Judge Sandra Hamlin called a recess in the trial of the third-generation Christian Scientists, charged in the death of their 2 1/2-year-old son, Robyn, who died in 1986 of a bowel obstruction.
During three weeks of testimony, prosecutors tried to prove that the boy died as a result of wanton neglect by the couple. The defense maintains that the Twitchells were following their faith when they sought to heal the child by prayer rather than conventional medicine.
David Twitchell soon regained his composure and, resuming his testimony, said, "Moments after his eyes half-closed, I realized I could not see his chest moving. I checked his throat and his wrist to try to get a pulse. I couldn't get one. (Nurse practitioner Nancy Calkins) said she thought he had passed."
After a long pause, Twitchell said, "I held him closer and cried and prayed out loud."
During his testimony, Twitchell recalled that Robyn first began showing signs of illness early in the morning of Friday, April 4, 1986. He said the child complained of stomach pain, cried, vomited and had a poor appetite.
Despite a turn for the worse over the weekend, Twitchell said, his son appeared to have recovered the morning of Tuesday, April 8, the day he died.