Editor's Note: A date was corrected as to when the child was seen apparently healthy at a grocery store.
QUEENSBURY -- A neighbor of murder suspect Gary Waite told a Warren County jury Wednesday that he heard seven or eight loud "bangs" in an apartment in Waite's building followed by a child's cries and screams the day that Waite's young son was gravely injured.
The neighbor, Thomas Umberg, said he was walking his dog outside Waite's Orville Street, Glens Falls apartment the afternoon of Feb. 13, 2012 when he heard the noises.
He described them as similar to the sound of a couch being dropped on a floor, and each "bang" was followed by crying and screaming that eventually stopped with the seventh or eighth bang.
He described the noises from the child as "terrifying, kid-in-anguish high screams."
"It was not a normal baby's cries," Umberg testified. "After the seventh, I didn't hear one sound from that child."
He said he didn't call 911 because of the frequent comings and goings from the building, and because he thought the sounds were probably from a fight taking place.
Umberg seemed to be the most damning witness as the prosecution began its case Wednesday in the murder and manslaughter case against Waite, who is accused of killing his 15-month-old son, Jesse Smith.
The jury also heard from the first emergency medical technician who responded to a 911 call from Waite's home the night of Feb. 13. The Glens Falls Fire Department EMT, Micki Guy, testified the child was barely alive from a severe head injury.
Guy said she heard a man she knew to be the child's father say the baby fell, but Guy said the injuries seemed too severe to have occurred during a fall. She said she made a child abuse report based on the injuries.
A relative of Waite's testified that Jesse did not appear injured or to be having any problems when she saw him in a Kingsbury grocery the morning of Feb. 9, 2012. That testimony was elicited in an effort to show the injuries occurred after that day, when the baby was in Waite's care.
Testimony began after Waite's lawyer told the jury his client wasn't responsible for the injuries Waite's young son suffered before his death.
Marc Zuckerman told the panel in his opening statement that Jesse Smith was brought to Waite's home on Feb. 13, 2012, already exhibiting signs that he was having trouble, and Waite called friends to find out what to do for the child.
He said "many people" cared for the 15-month-old, who split time between Waite's home and the home of the baby's mother.
"The critical piece in the case is when the injuries occurred," he said.
Zuckerman spoke for about 10 minutes Wednesday afternoon as Waite's trial on second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges got underway.
While he told the jury the child's injuries were "horrible to contemplate," he said there would be doubt about how they were inflicted and evidence would be insufficient to prove murder.
Zuckerman's opening statement came after Warren County District Attorney Kate Hogan blamed Waite for the child's death, telling the jury the boy was healthy and happy when brought to Waite's apartment in Glens Falls hours before he was hospitalized with major head injuries. He died Feb. 15, 2012.
A witness will testify to hearing 7 or 8 loud "bangs," followed by a child crying in the apartment building that day, she said. Medical evidence will show the boy suffered such severe head and facial injuries that he would not have been conscious for the period Waite indicated, Hogan said.
The injuries do not match up with Waite's explanation that the child fell, and bounced off a couch onto a floor, Hogan told the jury. Medical experts will show the injuries were "catastrophic" and took more force than described in Waite's version of events.
"This was a brutal, violent death," she said.
Waite, 29, has pleaded not guilty.
He did not address the court nor seem to show any emotion Wednesday, sitting silently at the defense table in a dark dress shirt and tie.