In Hamilton County Criminal Court on Friday, Ivan Dominique Dunton waived his right to a trial by jury and agreed to plea guilty to aggravated child abuse. As part of the plea agreement, Assistant District Attorney Andrew Coyle said Dunton will serve 25 years in the state prison without parole eligibility.
On March 4, 2019, members of the Chattanooga Police Department, led by Detective Corey Stokes, were called to a residence on Raulston Avenue on a report of an unconscious month-old girl, later identified as Olivia Dunton.
When law enforcement arrived, the child was on the floor of the residence wholly unresponsive with bruises on her face. The defendant, Ivan Dunton (26 at the time), who is the victim's biological father, was on the scene and indicated that the child fell down the steps at the residence he shared with the child’s mother in the East 27th Street Courts. The child was rushed to T.C. Thompson Children’s Hospital and soon afterward was pronounced dead.
Dunton was taken in for an interview and told law enforcement that the victim fell down the steps of his apartment while partially strapped into her car seat. The Defendant indicated that he believed his leg must have hit the car seat and knocked it down the steps. He indicated that he then placed the child in the car seat and attempted to find the victim’s mother, who left the house en route to a doctor’s visit after an argument with the defendant that morning.
Assistant DA Coyle said the police department’s investigation revealed that the defendant drove around with the injured victim for 30 minutes to an hour - even stopping at the child's pediatrician looking for the child’s mother. At no point did the defendant mention to the child's pediatrician that the child was in the car injured, nor did he call 911 or take the child to the emergency room.
An autopsy was conducted by the lead Hamilton County Medical Examiner, Dr. James Metcalfe. Dr. Metcalfe’s autopsy identified catastrophic injuries including contusions over her face and scalp, skull fractures, subdural hematomas, damage to the spinal cord, damage to the eyes, blunt force trauma to the chest, lungs, and ribs, contusions to the lumbar area, etc. There was also evidence of malnourishment, past trauma to this child’s ribs and a past subdural hematoma. Metcalfe listed the cause of death as homicide due to inflicted trauma and indicated that these injuries were inconsistent with a fall down the steps. This conclusion was supported by findings of Dr. Mary Palmer, a board certified expert in child abuse trauma for East Tennessee Children’s hospital who was hired by the state as an expert and was prepared to testify in the defendant’s trial that was scheduled for Dec. 7, 2021.