CHRISTIANSBURG — Did Andrew Christopher Terry bury his infant daughter last year in a shallow grave scooped out of a Montgomery County hillside, as he twice told police?
Or did he lead detectives along a set of railroad tracks on the edge of the Ellett Valley outside of Blacksburg to show officers that she wasn’t there?
On Wednesday, after the first of what is scheduled to be a two-day trial in Montgomery County Circuit Court, it seemed that jurors’ task may be to choose which of Terry’s versions of events to believe.
The Blacksburg man, now 32, was charged with concealing a body after the Sept. 11, 2018, disappearance of his daughter Arieanna Day from her mother’s home on Hanover Avenue in Roanoke.
The report of a missing baby, and Terry’s statement to police that he buried the girl, touched off days of searching in Montgomery County. The infant was not found. For months officers periodically combed the woods, slopes and streams, and appealed to residents to recall sightings of Terry’s vehicle.
No one has been charged with killing Arieanna.
On Wednesday, jurors heard that Terry, a cook at the Ballyhack Golf Club in Roanoke County, lived in Blacksburg with his longtime girlfriend and their children.
But Terry also had a relationship with Jessica Day, who he’d known since middle school, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Cristina Agee said.
Day lived in Roanoke and in the summer of 2018, she and Terry had a daughter together, Arieanna.
A series of Roanoke police officers testified how at just after 11 p.m. on the night of Sept. 11, 2018, Day reported that Arieanna had disappeared. She and Terry met officers at her home. Both agreed to go to the police department, Officer Melissa Foster said.
They let police examine their phones. From Terry’s phone, investigators copied Facebook messages between him and Day from earlier that night. They had been arguing about custody of Arieanna, Agee said.
But the messages seemed to go beyond custody. Detective Andy Huyn read a message that Day had sent Terry: “Andrew, please come. I thought you were coming. Are you going to harm her or are you going to set me up for murder?”
In an interrogation recording played Wednesday, Terry told investigators that he had not read that message when his phone received it and that he didn’t know what Day meant.
Terry was wearing wet, muddy pants when police met him at Day’s home, officers testified. There were stains of what looked like mud on the inside of the driver’s door of his car and on a hoodie and shirt found in the car, testified Officer Stephen Foster, who is no relation to Melissa Foster.
Terry had several explanations for how he got muddy. But after hours of questioning and a break for Terry to take a nap , he told officers he fell down a slope after he buried Arieanna, Detective Paul Delp testified.
In a recording played for the jury, Terry said that Day told him to come pick up the child. When Terry arrived, Day handed him Arieanna, who had a slight cut on her face, Terry told officers. Both sides of Arieanna’s face were swollen, Terry said.
Also on the recording, Terry told investigators that he drove with the girl toward his home in Blacksburg and that at about the time he left Interstate 81 at Exit 128, Arieanna stopped breathing.
Asked in the recorded interviews why he had not taken the girl to get medical care, Terry said he was scared.
In an interview, Terry told police that he drove up the valley to Blacksburg, then parked near a railroad crossing by the intersection of Jennelle and Cedar Run roads. Terry said that in the dark, with a light rain falling, he carried Arieanna up the tracks, then down a bank where he dug with his hands — and left his daughter covered in leaves.
Late on the afternoon of Sept. 12, 2018, Terry led Roanoke officers along the tracks, according to Delp’s testimony. But police found no grave and no body. Terry was arrested. “At that point, he recanted his story and said he just brought us to this spot to show us she wasn’t there,” Delp testified.
Roanoke police Lt. John Stephens said he questioned Terry again on Sept. 13, 2018 — and Terry repeated the story of an injured Arieanna dying in his car, and of burying her.
Jurors watched an hourlong video of the Sept. 13 questioning. At the end, officers left and Terry sat muttering indistinctly.
Terry’s trial is scheduled to conclude Thursday.