Trial begins for father in Gastonia accused of killing 7-week-old son

It was an emotional day in court Monday as the mother of a 7-week-old baby testified against the father accused of killing the child in 2020.

It was part of the first day in a long trial for Robert Middleton, who is on trial for first-degree murder.

The mother’s testimony is building up to the day that one of their two twin sons died of horrible head injuries.

“Davale means gift from God, and Deville means protector from God,” said Takaylia Young as a deputy showed the jury pictures of the twin boys Monday.

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Young said she and the twins’ father had already had one abortion. She said she was determined to keep her children the next time.

Middleton already had a daughter from another relationship, and Young testified, “He just told me that he wasn’t ready for another baby.”

Young said Middleton hung up on her when she told him she was having twins. Young had complications with the pregnancy and stayed in the hospital for a month in the summer, during the height of COVID-19.

Middleton was permitted to visit, but Young testified that he visited “maybe once or twice.”

Young testified that the twins had to stay in the hospital for weeks after delivery, and they were home for 11 days when Young said she noticed something wrong with one of the babies.

“Deville wasn’t behaving right,” said prosecutor Debbie Gulledge.

They went to the hospital and learned Deville had a skull fracture and bleeding in his head. Prosecutors said Middleton claimed he bumped into a door while walking with his son.

A medical examiner said that couldn’t have caused the wounds.

“It certainly doesn’t happen from simple falls or none of us would have made it past the age of two or three years old,” said Dr. Thomas Owens.

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Middleton’s attorney told jurors the symptoms and timing don’t point to Middleton, and that the prosecutors can’t say how the injuries happened.

“How this happened may very well remain a mystery,” said defense attorney Joshua Kellough.

The defense attorney said there are too many questions about what happened and urged the jury to hold the prosecution to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. He said “likely guilty” and “probably guilty” isn’t enough in a first-degree murder trial.

The trial will continue on Tuesday.

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