(Correction [Sept. 18, 2019/10:09 a.m.]: The original title to this story stated the trial's start date as Sept. 23; while the jury will be finalized on Sept. 23, the trial start date is, in fact, Sept. 24. Correction [Sept. 21, 2019/5:26 p.m.]: Typographical error for Aaron Roman Freeman's first name also corrected. The Times apologizes for these errors.)
On Sept. 13, a hearing was held at the La Paz County Superior Courthouse in Parker for Aaron Roman Freeman, 26, who is accused in the death of his 3-year-old daughter Autumn Shibley in Ehrenberg on June 10, 2017.
La Paz County District Attorney’s office deputy prosecutor Rachel Shackelford, Freeman’s public defender Michael Frame, and Arizona judge Robert Duber narrowed the pool of perspective jurors – from a total of 157 filled out questionnaires – for the trial’s start date, which is scheduled to begin on Sept. 24.
The high-profile case has been through a series of plea offers, with Freeman turning down the final offer on March 5.
Freeman’s decision followed a Jan. 3 hearing, at which point he communicated to the court a desire to move forward with a trial. At the time, Freeman communicated a displeasure with his defense attorney’s services and the defense’s investigation, claiming witnesses and doctors weren’t spoken to.
When prompted again at the Sept. 13 hearing by Duber whether Freeman was still intent on going to trial – with the Arizona judge again underlining the potential lifelong implications of a conviction’s sentence – Freeman answered in the affirmative.
To date, the La Paz County District Attorney’s office has made no public intent on pursuing the death penalty.
The Times reached out to La Paz County District Attorney Tony Rogers for comment on a formerly rejected plea offer in the case, but the prosecutor declined comment citing legal ethical rules and public caution on open cases.
“The La Paz County Attorney’s Office is mindful of Ethical Rule 3.6 regarding trial publicity and therefor out of an abundance of caution declines to comment on this open case,” stated Rogers to the Times.
Shibley’s mother, Ashly Parrish, has publicly disagreed with all previous plea deal offers presented to Freeman and questioned the prosecution’s decision not to pursue the matter as a capital punishment case given the alleged circumstances of the charges.
Parrish has also noted public frustrations over not receiving her daughter’s ashes.
According to court documents, submitted evidence includes surveillance footage showing a multitude of alleged physical child abuse actions committed by Freeman against his daughter Autumn at the Ehrenberg Tire Shop, beginning from 11:16 a.m. and through approximately 2:16 p.m. on June 10, 2017.
After leaving the tire shop, Freeman allegedly inflicted additional abuse. At approximately 7:30 p.m., Autumn arrived at Blythe’s Palo Verde Hospital (PVH) and was subsequently transported by ambulance to Loma Linda Children’s Hospital in Loma Linda, Calif., where, on the morning of June 11, 2017, Autumn was pronounced deceased.
According to a Dec. 6, 2018, filed court document by the La Paz County District Attorney alleging aggravating factors related to the case, the prosecution further claims:
“(Freeman) attempted to cover up the crime. Specifically, the Defendant killed the family dog which he claimed caused the injuries to the victim.”
Autumn’s autopsy report lists the cause of death as blunt force abdominal injury.