A man from Saginaw told police he sat on top of a 3-year-old girl for 15 minutes, killing her, according to a sergeant


SAGINAW, MI – In an interview with police detectives, a man from Saginaw allegedly admitted to sitting drunk on top of a 3-year-old girl for 15 minutes, killing her in the process.

One of the detectives who conducted the interview testified to the admission during a preliminary examination on October 13 of John E. Graves, 56. Graves, who suffers from epilepsy, is accused of manslaughter following the death, on September 20, 2020, of Paris N. Sharpe, 3 years old.

Prior to the detective’s testimony, medical examiner Dr Randy S. Tashjian said he performed an autopsy on Paris’s body on September 22. His examination revealed a swollen brain, petechial hemorrhages in the eyes, lack of tissue oxygenation and microscopic evidence of fluid in the lungs, he said.

Saginaw County Deputy District Attorney Shellbe A. Sanborn asked Tashjian what the cause of Paris’ death was.

“I determined it was due to asphyxiation,” he said. Tashjian initially called Paris’ mode of death an “accident,” but within days he changed it to “undetermined,” he said.

Defense lawyer David C. Roby asked the doctor what explained the change in the mode of death.

“If it was a 6 month old or a year old, I think I would feel a lot more confident calling it an accident,” Tashjian said. “But considering it was a 3 year old girl who was big enough to struggle and vocalize if she was under duress, for me it was just a little unusual so I felt more out of it. comfortable after thinking about things that “indeterminate” be the most appropriate way.

Paris N. Sharpe

Tashjian added that he spoke with colleagues before changing the mode of death. The change was not due to consultation with law enforcement investigators, he said.

When further questioned by Roby, Tashjian said the Saginaw County Chief Medical Examiner asked him to take a second look after submitting his initial autopsy report.

When Tashjian resigned, Sanborn called Paris’ grandmother, Stephanie Steward, to the bar.

Steward testified that she was residing at Northfield Center Apartments in Bridgeport Township in September 2020. On the night of the 19th, she invited people to her unit, including Graves. Paris was one of the two children present.

The adults drank and played cards while the kids played with a dollhouse, Steward said. As the night wore on, Steward asked a guest to fall asleep as she was intoxicated and arguing with Graves, she said.

Steward firmly maintained that Graves was not drunk, however.

A little before 5 a.m. that morning, Steward went upstairs to lie down and Graves said he would watch over the two children in the living room on the first floor. At the time, Paris and the other child were sleeping foot to foot on a sofa, Steward said.

“He said, ‘You know I’ll look after the babies, sister. You know I love them, ”Steward said.

So she fell asleep.

Sanborn asked her what she remembered next.

“My next memory was my daughter Whitley screaming, just screaming,” she said, crying as she spoke. “‘Mummy mummy!’ I jumped… My Paris was on the ottoman. Someone put it on the ottoman and put a sheet over her face. She didn’t respond. She had a red mark on her cheek.… I was screaming , ‘What happened ?! What happened ?!’ “

Steward became overcome with emotion, stopping frequently to pull himself together and continue.

Steward saw Paris in this state around 7 a.m., she said. Graves was still in the apartment at the time, she said.

A few days later, Steward spoke with Graves in another house and encouraged him to surrender to authorities. He told her, “It was a mistake,” she said.

In cross-examination, Roby referred to a police report in which Steward told police that Graves had been drunk. Steward denied describing Graves as such to police.

“I trusted John,” Steward cried as questioning continued, prompting Saginaw County District Judge Mr. Randall Jurrens to request a recess.

When the hearing resumed, Steward said she had known Graves since they were children. Roby asked her why she had encouraged Graves – as well as the guest woman – to surrender to authorities within days of Paris’ death.

“For killing my grandchild,” she replied.

Roby asks Steward what made him think Graves and the woman had killed Paris.

“They were the only ones down there,” she said.

Roby asked Steward if she knew Graves was having seizures. She said Graves had seizures if he drank too much. Roby asked if she knew Graves had epilepsy and Steward said no.

Michigan State Police Detective Sgt. Chris Siegert testified that he responded to Steward’s apartment on the morning of September 20, 2020. At the time, Paris’s body was lying on the ground, he said.

Siegert noticed a distinctive red mark on Paris’ cheek, about the size of a quarter, he said. The rim of a vodka bottle recovered between the sofa cushions lined up with the wound, he added.

Siegert and another detective interviewed Graves at police headquarters on the afternoon of September 20, 2020. Graves was not under arrest at the time.

“He basically said he didn’t have a lot of knowledge about what had happened,” Siegert said.

Siegert questioned Graves again on September 26, 2020, this time in an unmarked police vehicle. The second interview was prompted by Steward calling the police to report that they had had a conversation with Graves, during which he claimed to have sat in Paris.

In this second interview, Graves said he believed he was sitting on the sofa and realized he was sitting on one of the children.

“He said he had sat in Paris for about 15 minutes and realized what had happened and stood up from his sitting position,” Siegert said.

Graves gave different accounts of what he did immediately afterwards, the Staff Sgt said. In one version, Graves said he moved Paris’s body from the sofa to an ottoman.

“He also stated that he knew he was intoxicated and had drunk two pints of vodka and that he was possibly also thinking a few beers,” Siegert said.

Graves only got emotional during his second interview with the police, Siegert said.

“I think he was sad for what he had done,” Siegert said.

Detectives did not read Graves his rights to Miranda in this second interview, but told him he was free to leave at any time, Siegert said.

Roby asked Siegert what made Graves’ statement about his sitting in Paris more reliable than his initial statement that he didn’t remember what happened. The sergeant replied that he did not know. He said he didn’t remember any questions the detectives might have asked Graves about his medical issues.

The hearing concluded with Judge Jurrens binding the Graves case to the Saginaw County Circuit Court for trial. Roby opposed the affair, arguing that Paris’ death was the result of a tragic accident rather than a crime.

No charges were brought against anyone in the apartment when Paris died.

Police in Des Moines, Iowa, arrested Graves in June 2021, after which he was extradited to Michigan.

Paris “had a smile that lit up the room,” says her obituary. “She was so sweet and energetic and stood out with her sandy brown hair. This is one of the reasons we called her Pear Bear.

Paris “loved music and above all she loved taking selfies with her grandmother’s phone”, continues the obituary. “Paris will be truly missed by all of our family. “

Read more:

Saginaw man accused of killing child he was sitting on sent for psychological assessment

Man Kills Baby Girl While Sitting On Top Of Her, Saginaw County Prosecutors Say

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