Three-year-old Logan Starliper was dead for nearly a day before 911 was called. Methamphetamines and buprenorphine, an opioid used to treat drug addiction, were found in the toddler’s system. She died of mixed-drug toxicity on Jan. 5, 2018.
While she lay dead on her bed, her mother’s boyfriend, Brian Bennett, went to buy more meth and conducted several Google searches relating to infant CPR.
“It was horrible, I just panicked,” he said on the stand during his trial in court this week. “I didn’t want to come down from the high.”
Bennett, 32, of Greencastle, and 66-year-old Thomas Keogh, of Connecticut, were on trial this week for a litany of charges related to Logan’s death.
The abuse started well before Jan. 5, 2018, photos presented during the trial showed. In a home where Bennett and Logan’s mother, Brittany Higgins, were shooting up meth, anger at the children for getting in their way often turned physical.
Bennett, who was not the biological father of either Logan or her older brother Landon, also testified that he would physically discipline the children.
“There were times where it was discipline and there were times that maybe I hit them too hard,” Bennett said.
Disturbing photos from the crime scene showed the little girl dressed in Hello Kitty pajamas and surrounded by stuffed animals. Blunt force trauma was noted on Logan’s forehead, as well as red, irritated marks around her mouth and cheeks that expert pathologist Dr. Samuel Land explained were from vomit sitting on her skin for an extended period of time.
But this wasn’t just a case about child abuse. The Starliper case has been a tumultuous one, with nine individuals originally charged for various levels of involvement over the past three and a half years since Logan’s death.
Seven defendants in the case took plea deals, including Higgins, who pleaded no contest in December 2019 and is currently serving a 10- to 20-year sentence in state prison. Other defendants pleaded guilty to drug delivery resulting in death, felony charges of corrupt organization and conspiracy, among other linked charges.
Over the last two weeks, dozens of witnesses were called and nearly 500 exhibits were presented in court.
The courtroom was packed to capacity Thursday morning, with many attendants wearing purple. The color was Logan’s favorite.
Ironically, it is also the color that signifies September as National Recovery Month.
Following days of testimony from experts, law enforcement and others who were charged in relation to this case, defense attorney Michael Palermo called his own client, Bennett, to the stand.
Bennett was candid about his regular drug use at the time of Logan’s death. He referred to himself as a “functioning drug addict.”
Photos of Logan presented during the trial showed signs of abuse, bruising and injuries well before her death.
But Bennett insisted under oath that he tried to treat both children as if they were his own.
In cross-examination, District Attorney Matt Fogal pushed Bennett on certain points, including why he had a video on his phone, later deleted, of Logan lying dead in her bed.
“I took the video by accident,” Bennett said.
The call to 911 was made almost 12 hours after Logan was found dead.
Fogal asked Bennett numerous times if he felt he was responsible for Logan’s death. Bennett didn’t provide a direct answer, saying he was unclear of certain details from that day. However, he repeatedly expressed that now he was a changed man.
Discrepancies between the “accidental” video on Bennett’s phone that was taken that morning and crime scene photos show that the clothes on Logan’s body had been changed sometime between 10 a.m. when Bennett discovered the body and after 9 p.m. when emergency personnel arrived.
At the trial, Palermo criticized the prosecution’s decision to offer a no-contest plea to Higgins.
He reminded the jury of a text message Higgins had sent the evening Logan had died, right around her bedtime.
“I’m just going to keep beating her — reminding her what she did because I enjoy beating her now.”
Testimony, phone records, timelines, interview records, an autopsy report and search warrant evidence implicated Bennett.
“Knowingly bringing methamphetamines, an illicit drug, into the home is malicious,” District Attorney Fogal said, pushing for a murder conviction. “The number one responsibility of my daughter and son-in-law is to make sure my grandson doesn’t die. It isn’t that hard. This should have been seen coming a mile away. This was inevitable. This is sick.”
Showing a photo of Logan, smiling at the camera, he pleaded with the jury to remember the child this way.
“Don’t remember the ugly ones,” he said. “If you think about her, remember this one.”
After four hours of deliberations, a jury delivered their verdicts.
Bennett was acquitted of third-degree murder, the most serious charge against him, but was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Logan.
He was also found guilty of delivery of a controlled substance, two counts of endangering the welfare of children, criminal use of a communication facility and possession of drug paraphernalia. He was acquitted of drug delivery resulting in death.
Keogh was found guilty on all charges, including drug delivery resulting in death, delivery of a controlled substance, criminal use of a communication facility and corrupt organization.
Bennett’s and Keogh’s sentencing is scheduled to take place Nov. 10, where families and friends will have the opportunity to read victim impact statements.
This article originally appeared on Chambersburg Public Opinion: A 3-year-old died of an overdose while her caretakers got high. No one called 911 for almost a day.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1800-273-TALK (8255), text “help” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
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