ROGERSVILLE - Scotty Trexler, the mere mention of that name brings back painful memories of what was, without a doubt, one of the most publicized and discussed crimes in Hawkins County's history. If you lived in the county in the May 1987 you became all to familiar with the tragic story and the personalities involved. Scott (Scotty) Avery Trexler was the 21-month-old son of Tammy Trexler, then 18. Tammy Trexler and her unemployed, live-in boyfriend Kerry Bowers lived in a trailer park on Thorpe's Chapel Road. The pair of adults moved to Hawkins County from North Carolina, testimony later indicated, in large part to avoid a possible child abuse investigation in North Carolina. Tammy Trexler worked at a Rogersville restaurant while Bowers served as a babysitter, although court records, evidence and testimony would later indicate Bowers was not just watching but was actually abusing the child. On May 29, 1987, around 7 p.m., records state a neighbor was leaving the trailer park when Bowers came up to her car and told her somebody down at a trailer could not breathe. The neighbor went to the trailer and found a baby lying on its back, motionless with its eyes rolling back. Scotty Trexler's face "was blood red" and on the trip to the hospital he "made hollow noises from deep in its throat," court records state. Bowers reportedly kept saying, "Breathe Scotty, breathe" the entire trip. Bowers told hospital personnel the child was injured in a fall but documents indicate his injuries included "extensive abrasions and burns about his body" and the boy was bruised "from head to toe." An area on each buttock had been burned to the point that the skin was removed. A burn extended over most of the right side of the child's face. Bruises were on the child's trunk, abdomen, back and both legs. The child was taken by helicopter to the University of Tennessee Hospital in Knoxville, arriving there around 9 p.m. and was pronounced dead shortly after 11 p.m. Dr. Cleland Blake, a forensic pathologist, testified that he performed the autopsy on Scotty Trexler on May 30, 1987. Dr. Blake, after examining microscopic samples of skin from the child's face, concluded that the burns on the child's face were between one and two weeks old. He stated that the burns were absolutely not consistent with a child knocking a pot of boiling water off a stove, a story Bowers told authorities. He said that it was more likely that the child had been lying on its back looking up when the burns were inflicted. The pathologist said the most serious and ultimately lethal injuries were those inflicted to the child's head. The child developed subdural and subarachnoidal hemotomas inside the skull. These injuries resulted in the loss of blood from the brain and the gradual compression of the brain toward the base of the brain stem. Ultimately, the head injuries caused the child to stop breathing. Dr. Blake found evidence of old hemorrhages in the brain which were in various stages of healing. The head injuries occurred within ten to twelve hours of death. The cause of death was the increase of pressure inside the head which caused the compression of the brain into the spinal cord, cutting off the blood supply to the respiratory organs. The multiple debilitating injuries to the other parts of the child's body also contributed to his death, the doctor said. Former Sheriff Warren Rimer referred to the case in an article that appeared when he retired in 2006. "I don't know anyone who worked on that case that was not affected somehow. It was one of those cases you can never forget," Rimer said. Former Judge James Beckner also referred to the Trexler case in an interview when he stepped down from the bench. Although Bowers was originally charged with first degree murder and Trexler with aiding and abetting first degree murder, Tennessee law at that time required "premeditation" to be present before someone could be convicted of first degree murder. Bowers was found guilty of second degree murder and Trexler of aggravated assault and failure to report child abuse, as well as a simple possession of marijuana charge. "The Trexler case is one that still lives on in legislation and the law today. After that case I testified before a committee that drafted what was referred to as the Scotty Trexler Law," Beckner said. The amendment, adopted in 1988, has been refined over the years to make a death resulting from aggravated child abuse or child neglect one of the circumstances constituting first degree murder. Tammy Trexler, now in her 40s, completed her sentence and reportedly married and has another child. Kerry Bowers, now 46, is still serving his sentence for second degree murder in West Tennessee State Prison. In August he will once again be eligible for a parole hearing, although his request has been denied on previous occasions. Even if the request is turned down, he is scheduled to be released in March 2015. Scotty Trexler would be approximately 25, if he had lived. Instead, in June 1987 the 21-month old abuse victim was buried in a private ceremony by grandparents in a North Carolina cemetery.
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