EYE CONTACT: The Mysterious Death in 2000 in Maine of Kassidy Bortner and the Wrongful Conviction of Chad Evans in New Hampshire
Chad Emery Evans was wrongfully convicted in December, 2001 in New Hampshire of the murder of Kassidy Bortner, the 21-month old daughter of his girlfriend, Amanda Bortner. The causes of her death and her injuries are mysterious and disputed, but Chad was convicted of second degree murder.
On June 2, 2000, Chad met Amanda and their relationship grew rapidly. By early July, Amanda and Chad were living together. Chad's three-year old son, Kyle, also lived in the home several days a week, through shared custody with Chad's former wife.
On the morning of November 9, 2000, Amanda took Kassidy to the Kittery, Maine home of her sister, Jennifer Bortner, and her sister's boyfriend, Jefferey Marshall, for babysitting for the day. Kassidy had a new bruise on one eye due to an accident the previous night when Chad was giving Kyle some batting practice with a brown plastic bat in Kyle's bedroom just before bedtime. While wiffle balls were usually used for such fun, the ball that Kyle hit into Kassidy's eye was a "Tee-ball."
The resulting bruise to Kassidy's left eye was the latest of a series of bruises which had been observed by many people during the fall of 2000. In a time of growing sensitivity to child abuse, most of the responsible adults close to Kassidy chose to believe that the bruises and injuries were unfortunate accidents, and that they didn't require medical care right away. The life-threatening severity of the injuries was not known or suspected by anyone. Tragically, those adults, including Chad Evans, were unaware that there was something very wrong with Kassidy, because of the accidents or perhaps because of a chronic condition, disease or toxin. Chad Evans never spanked nor hit Kassidy Bortner. He loved and cared for her.
Shortly after Noon on the 9th, Jeff Marshall checked on Kassidy and recognized that she was in trouble and seemingly lifeless; and he made several phone calls for help. The EMT's and Kittery Police arrived quickly, but Kassidy was dead when they arrived.
As the man living with Kassidy's mother, Amanda Bortner, Chad Evans was an initial suspect. By the time of Chad's 7:10 p.m. interview with the police, and within about seven hours of Kassidy's death, the police were focused entirely on Chad; and worked thereafter to build the case against him. At his December 2001 trial, Chad took his attorneys' advice not to testify, and his attorneys decided to call only one defense witness. They called the nationally renowned forensic pathologist, Dr. Michael Baden, as they thought his testimony was sufficient to establish the reasonable doubt needed for a not-guilty verdict. However, their assessment was wrong, and the jury found Chad guilty of most of the charges.
In November, 2002, Amanda Bortner was tried and found guilty of two counts of child endangerment and sentenced to two years in jail.
In 2011, Chad Evans began his tenth year in the New Hampshire State Prison for crimes he didn't commit. He passed a lie detector test given in July 2010. In September 2010, a report was discovered of a DNA test conducted by the Maine State police in March 2001. The test on blood found underneath all ten of Kassidy Bortner's fingernails showed that the blood belonged to Kassidy. The DNA test on the substance on a paper towel found where Kassidy was sitting on the day she died showed saliva that belonged to a male. Prior to Chad's trial, the existence of the blood was in a report available to his defense lawyers, but it was not mentioned by anyone on either side at the trial. The DNA test and report was never disclosed to the defense. Also not disclosed was information about Kassidy’s medical appointments in August and September, 2000. The jury also did not know about a family gathering four days before Kassidy died where only one bruise was seen, on her right cheek.
"Eye Contact" tells the story of the wrongful convictions of Chad and Amanda and the campaign for exoneration.
- Morrison Bonpasse, August 2011
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