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Friends of Martzen take stand in her defense

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Friends of a Reedley babysitter accused of killing a toddler nearly four years ago took the stand in her defense today.

Megan Martzen, 22, is accused of shaking 17- month old Ella Vanleeuwen so severely she died three days later.

But Martzen claims the child's injuries were partially caused by a fall from a bed. In an unusual move by the defense - an attorney who represented Martzen four years ago -- took the stand.

He says Martzen told him about an earlier accident where Ella's older brother pushed her from a booster seat. But that story detectives say was never reported to police.

Attorney Layne Hayden says Martzen hired him four years ago after her initial interview with Reedley police.

Our camera's weren't allowed inside the courtroom during his testimony but Hayden said in one of the five conversations he had with Martzen she said Ella's mother told her the toddler's older brother pushed her from a booster seat the day before she fell in Martzen's home.

Hayden said he didn't tell police about that fall because that information was protected under attorney-client privilege at the time.

But when the prosecution asked if there was a record of that conversation Hayden admitted he didn't take any notes and Martzen's file was "pretty much empty."

He said he worked for Martzen for 14 months but once she was charged with child abuse and murder he advised her to hire a more experienced criminal defense lawyer.

Earlier in the day several of Martzen's friends also took the stand.

Clovis police sergeant James Boldt said he hired Martzen to babysit his 7 year old daughter more than a dozen times.

He described Martzen as a "patient, caring and gentle babysitter" and said because of his work in law enforcement - he'd often look for red flags, but didn't see any.

Later, former youth pastor at Reedley First Baptist Church Dianne Widaman said Martzen volunteered two hours of her time each week to look after a group of two to four year olds.

She described Martzen as "advanced in her capability to watch children" and said "the kids loved her and Megan was great with them."

But ultimately it could come down to what Martzen says herself.

When the lead detective in the case took the stand this afternoon there was some confusion over where he believed Martzen said Ella was placed on the bed when she allegedly fell.

That will likely come up again when Martzen takes the stand next week.

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