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More than 12 Years Later, Prosecutor Details Horrendous Killing of Infant

Patch file photo by Guy McCarthy
Patch file photo by Guy McCarthy
A father beat his 10-week-old daughter to death, wrapped duct tape around her head and kept her body inside a trash bag that he and his girlfriend took with them from Desert Hot Springs to Arkansas, a prosecutor said Monday.

Prosecutor Lisa DiMaria told jurors Dec. 2 that Jason Michael Hann, 38, struck his infant daughter Montana with a closed fist in February 2001, inflicting fatal skull fractures.

The infant's lifeless body was placed in a Tupperware container, which was then put in the trash bag and kept inside a trailer for a year at a storage unit in Arkansas, DiMaria said in her opening statement.

When Hann and the baby's mother, Krissy Lynn Werntz, stopped making payments, the trailer was auctioned off to an Arkansas man, who discovered the bag in February 2002, DiMaria said.

The man inadvertently placed the bag inside a trash bin and saw what looked like a skeletal hand, prompting him to call police, the prosecutor said.

Werntz, Hann's ex-girlfriend, is also charged with murder in the case and will be tried separately.

Hann was extradited to California from a prison cell in Vermont, where he was prosecuted for killing his 6-week-old son Jason, in 1999. The baby's body was found in an Arizona storage unit, DiMaria said.

Hann pleaded no contest in 2006 to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 27 to 30 years in prison. Werntz was not charged in that case.

In addition to the latest murder charge, Hann faces a special circumstance allegation of having a previous murder conviction and one count of assault on a child causing great bodily injury. He could face the death penalty if convicted.

Hann's third child - also named Jason - nearly died at the hands of his father, DiMaria told jurors. But that infant, who was beaten at the age of four weeks, was the "lucky one" who survived a series of skull and rib fractures, the prosecutor said, adding that the boy was later adopted and renamed.

"He admitted to killing Jason and Montana" when being questioned by Arkansas police during the 2002 arrest for Montana's killing, the prosecutor said.

Defense attorney Brenda Miller told jurors that her client has suffered from bipolar disorder since early childhood. He endured mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, agitation and has harbored thoughts of suicide "all his life," Miller said in her opening statement.

At 19, Hann was placed in a group home for people with psychological problems, and he was less-than-honorably discharged from the Navy, the defense attorney said.

Miller said Montana's cries made Hann reach an extreme peak in his severe mood swings, Miller said.

"Welcome to Jason Michael Hann's world," the defense attorney said.

Reported by City News Service in Indio

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