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Saturday, May 20, 2000

Marine says he held
daughter’s face down

He's charged with murder in his
infant's death; he says he was just trying
to get her to stop crying

By Treena Shapiro


Cpl. James N. Bingham and his wife Tricia, also a Marine corporal, initially said they found 18-month-old daughter Molly wedged between her bed and the wall on March 14.

But Bingham submitted a sworn statement on May 14 that he pressed Molly's face into a mattress and then covered her body with a plastic toy container.

A hearing began yesterday for the 23-year-old Marine charged with the suffocation death of his daughter.

Molly was pronounced dead at Castle Memorial Hospital on March 11, and deputy medical examiner Bani Win concluded her death was caused by asphyxiation due to suffocation.

Bingham did not testify at the hearing, but in his written statement he said he held his daughter's face to the mattress "just to make Molly stop crying." He said he used his body weight to keep her head down. According to the statement, Molly was still alive following this incident and Bingham began playing with her by covering her body with a plastic toy container that she was able to push off after about five seconds. He did this a few times and said Molly was smiling and appeared playful. The final time, however, Bingham said Molly was lying on her side in a fetal position. After covering her with the container, he put his foot on top so Molly could not push it off.

Testifying by phone yesterday, Win said there were contusions on the child's head and neck, multiple hemorrhages and teeth marks on the inside of the child's lips. "It appears that the child was held there and held down with pressure when the suffocation occurred."

Earle A. Partington, Bingham's civilian attorney, argued that the autopsy report was inconsistent with Bingham's statement because Molly would have died after having her face held to the mattress and not by having the toy container covering her. Bingham is charged with murder, conspiracy and making a false official statement. His wife is also charged with conspiracy and making a false official statement. The investigating officer who presided over her hearing last month recommended that she be taken to general court-martial.

Both Binghams have been held at Ford Island since the end of March.

The investigating officer's recommendations are nonbinding and the decision to court-martial will be made by the commanding general of the Marine Corps Base Hawaii.

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