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Breaking: Death of child ruled a homicide

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Special grand jury to investigate the crime

By Tom Wilmoth

A special grand jury will be impaneled next month to investigate the death of an eight-month old child in September.

    Bedford Police Department Chief Jim Day said this week that the death of the child, Marissa Burnette, had officially been ruled this week as a homicide.

    On Sept. 2, officers responded to 1114 Maiden Lane in the city of Bedford regarding a possible injury to the child.  The child was transported to Bedford Memorial Hospital and then to Roanoke Memorial Hospital where it was later pronounced deceased. 

    The child’s body was transported to the medical examiner’s office in Roanoke for an autopsy and on Friday the results of that completed autopsy were released, calling the death a homicide. Day said Bedford County Commonwealth’s Attorney Randy Krantz plans to call the special grand jury, which will meet in January 2009, to hear testimony and investigate the crime. Witnesses will be called and the grand jury will be able to ask questions of them. The hope is that the testimony will provide additional information into the investigation of the child's death. Those testifying will be under oath and will be compelled to testify. They will also have the same rights as those appearing in a jury trial in that they don't have to incriminate themselves.

    Day said the delay in receiving the final autopsy report was not unexpected. “I don't think it's that unusual (to take that long) for a complex case like this where there was a brain injury,” he said. “It's a very complicated process that the Medical Examiner has to go through. We were prepared for it to take as long as necessary to get the results.”

    The Bedford Police Department is also continuing its investigation into this incident, Day said. No arrests have been made in the case. “We're working very closely with the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office to develop this case and to make a determination as to who committed the crime,” Day said Friday.