NewsNewsChannel 5 Investigates


Murder trial begins for Maury County man accused in 2001 child abuse death

Cold case reopened after 2006 NC5 investigation
Toddler's Body To Be Exhumed For Second Autopsy
Posted at 2:29 PM, Jul 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-19 15:29:09-04

COLUMBIA, Tenn. (WTVF) — The murder trial has begun for a Maury County man accused in the child abuse death of a 15-month-old boy more than 20 years ago.

Christopher Lee Goodwin, 49, was indicted on murder charges in 2019, years after an exclusive NewsChannel 5 investigation raised questions about the death of Jeffry Kelton Skaggs. The child's death was an accident, although several experts believed it was a homicide.

Goodwin was charged with two counts of felony murder -- one related to aggravated child abuse, the other for aggravated child neglect.

He pleaded not guilty.

Christopher Goodwin Graphic.png
Christopher Goodwin

Investigators said the Columbia man, who was the boyfriend of the child's mother, was alone with the child at the time he sustained a fatal blow to the head in January 2001.

At the time, the medical examiner, Dr. Charles Harlan, theorized that the toddler fell while climbing on a chest and hit his head on a bed rail.

Harlan later lost his medical license for incompetence.

As NewsChannel 5 Investigates reported in 2006, then-State Medical Examiner Dr. Bruce Levy had questioned the findings of the first autopsy.

"We had injuries that didn't match the stories, the multiple stories, provided, the stories that changed over time," Levy said.

Watch Part 1 of our 2006 investigation below:

Larry Wallace, the retired director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation shared that concern.

"In my humble judgment, it's been a travesty of justice," Wallace said.

And the state board that oversees doctors' licenses came to the same conclusion, after reviewing Harlan's work.

Wallace read the board's findings.

"The child's actual manner of death was the result of non-accidental trauma," he read.

We asked, "Meaning?"

"Meaning that in the judgment of the authors of this article it was homicide."


"It was murder."

NewsChannel 5 Investigates also obtained a photo showing that Skaggs' right leg was in a cast at the time of his death.

The family said it was the result of another fall.

But when state officials asked a judge to exhume Skaggs' body as part of the investigation of Harlan's medical license, District Attorney General Mike Bottoms -- a longtime Harlan friend -- refused to sign off on it.

Watch Part 2 of our 2006 investigation below:

NewsChannel 5 tried to interview Bottoms back in 2006.

"So what about this little boy. What if you're wrong, sir?" we asked, as the DA shrugged his shoulders.

In 2014, Brent Cooper was elected DA to replace Bottoms, and he re-opened the investigation into Skaggs' death.

Cooper even got the legislature to pass a law that clarified his ability to seek a second autopsy.

"I'm just the type of person that I just don't believe in letting someone just walk away from a crime if I believe they've committed a crime," Cooper said at the time.

That autopsy found fractures on the backside of Skaggs' skull that "would have required considerable force to produce."

It listed the manner of death as "homicide" and the circumstances as "assaulted by others."

Maury County Circuit Judge Stella Hargrove rejected NewsChannel 5's request to have a camera in the courtroom to provide video coverage of the proceedings.