I am not into baby killing cases. They break my heart. Anyone who hurts a baby should be castrated or have a slow death...
I received a call from Mike, "Can you come in I have a new case?" Jason and his family had hired Mike to handle an accusation and later indictment in the death of Marie, his girlfriend's 2 year old daughter.
I was left in a room to myself to review autopsy photos. To be alone to look at this small, blonde haired child being fileted as if she were a catfish freshly caught was enough to make my gut wrench. Looking at the photos of them cutting the skin around her skull, pulling her hair over her face so that the brain could be examined was equally as chilling. Looking at the blood clots around her brain where a bruise went subduro made me want to hit something Her torso, according to the photos, was cut in all directions. Poor baby. Hurt in life and cut up afterwards.
I wanted to know the truth. I wanted to know if Jason had hurt this baby. I took the case.
This was a long drawn out case. One that will forever be implanted in my mind.
For Jason's safety, due to threats made by the biological father, he was not bonded out. I truly believe that had Jason had his feet on the ground, that he would be a dead man walking.
We needed a time frame. We needed to compare the time frame with the autopsy findings. Conclusions of time was, in our opinion, our way to win this case.
Jason was adamant that he did not hurt Marie( name change). His parents brought photos of Jason and Marie loving and playing together. By all appearances, Jason loved Marie as if she were his own child. He would cry when he talked about her.
Rhonda, the mother, had two daughters. Both from previous marriages. She had lost custody through CPS of her oldest daughter, Maxine (name changed), but had regained custody. Maxine had lived with her maternal grandmother. Maxine and Marie had little, to no relationship with their biological fathers, which I believe, in part, was because of Rhonda.
Rhonda was and is a pretty lady. She would catch the eye of many men. She was a party girl. She always had a man in her life. She couldn't survive without a man in her life. She had no job stability. She was a prolific liar. Men said she could "drink me under the table." She took pills that weren't prescribed for her. She swore, cursed, and would "fight like a man."
Jason F was the biological father of Marie. He was a tall thin country man. He was a drinker. He has had several run-ins with the law - mainly dope problems. Illegal drugs, mainly marijuana, evading arrest are on his record. He didn't have much contact with Marie. He worked for his father, who owns an air conditioning business, under a psuedo name, so that he didn't have to pay child support on her.
Jason B suffers from seizures and back problems. He was given medication that he eventually got hooked on. He couldn't hold a job. He lied a lot. He drank. He smoked cigarrettes. He was in love with Rhonda. He loved her children. He wasn't a bad guy, just one who had gone astray of the teachings of his parents who are devout Christians.
Rhonda ran into Jason's mother the weekend before the Texas Sales Tax reprieve. In Texas there is one weekend prior to school opening that the State doesn't charge a sales tax on clothing and other items. It was arranged that Rhonda, Marie and Maxine would meet at Grandma F's house and along with the great grandmother, they would all go to the mall.
Rhonda never told Jason B where she was going that Saturday morning. Not that he would have minded... but it was her secret. They exchanged texts throughout the day.
At the mall, they had lunch at Casa Ole around 1:30pm. Jason F had shown up, I'm sure after a phone call from his mother that she had the girls at the mall. After eating beans, rice, and chips, Marie went with her daddy to the play area.
At some point, she fell and collided with another child who was there. No blood, no outward bruises were shown.
Shopping was done. Jason F carried Marie to his truck, which was parked on the west side of the mall and drove around to where his mother's car was parked on the East side of the mall transferring Marie in her car seat as she was already asleep.
All the ladies, Grandma, great grandma, Rhonda, Marie and Maxine drove back to Grandma's house, where Rhonda had left her car. Marie was once again transferred in her car seat to Rhonda's car. Rhonda stopped on her way home to get a package of cigarrettes, leaving both girls in the car alone. Time now is approximately 10:30pm.
She arrives back to the apartment that she and Jason shared approximately 10:45pm. Jason wasn't on the lease of the apartment. Rhonda's aunt or cousin was the manager and Rhonda was getting subsidized housing. The manager knew that Jason was living there and allowed it. Rhonda took Marie straight to the bedroom, never undressed her from the clothes she had on all day, never changed her diaper, without turning on a light - Rhonda just put her to bed.
Jason was sitting on the patio when they got home. He was drinking a beer. After putting on a movie for Maxine to watch in her room, Rhonda joined him. A neighbor, Justin (name changed) passed and invited them over to his apartment across the breezeway for a party.
Rhonda was ready to party. Jason was not. However, he coceded and went with her. Rhonda left the apartment door unlocked and gave her cell phone to Maxine "just in case Maxine needed them". After an hour or so Jason said he needed to go check on the girls. Rhonda was partying. Jason came back to Justin's apartment and told Rhonda, "we need to go home, you need your rest."
What no one at the party knew was, that on Friday, Rhonda had had an abortion. From medical records obtained, this was not her first abortion. She was pregnant, with what Jason thought was his baby. They weren't yet married. Jason nor she were working. The decision to abort was both of their decisions. Rhonda had no complications during nor after the abortion. She was instructed to "rest and take it easy for a few days". She was given pain pill prescription, which she immediately filled.
Rhonda told the folks at the party that she wanted to leave Jason. She wanted him out of her life. Jason didn't know this.
After Rhonda said she didn't want to go home - she "wasn't ready to leave the party" - Jason went back to their apartment. After another thirty to forty-five minutes, Justin walked over the Rhonda's apartment - he entered an opened unlocked door. He saw Jason in Marie's room. Jason was patting Marie on the back.
"Is everything Okay?" Justin asked.
"Yea she was just whining." Jason responded.
Justin was looking at getting a three bedroom apartment like what Rhonda had - so Jason showed him around, before they went back over to Justin's apartment.
When they got back to Justin's apartment, Jason told Rhonda it was time to go home, that Marie was whining and needed her mother. Jason swooped down to scoop Rhonda up in his arms, when she started screaming. She broke lose and ran to the bathroom, locking herself inside. Meanwhile, Raul (name changed) and Jason got into a fight and punches were thrown. Jason kicks in the bathroom door and makes Rhonda go home.
Cops were called. Jason later tells me, "I thought, screw this she isn't worth it. We'd had a fight about three weeks prior to this and I said if we ever fought like this again I would leave for good. She begged me not to leave her the first time. This time I was gone."
As Jason drove out the back gate, he passed the cops coming into the gate and apartment complex.
Raul stayed the night with Rhonda. Maxine gave a statement that said, "I got up and looked in my mama's bedroom and that boy was in bed with her and I didn't like it." Maxine said she went back to her room and got up later that morning to find her mom, "that boy" (Raul) having tea and coffee on the patio.
Crime scene photos show a coffee cup which was later revealed to be tea with milk in it. Maxine and Rhonda made pigs in the blanket, (biscuits wrapped around small sausages) , when Maxine went to wake "sleepy head Marie up".
Maxine came running to her mother and Raul on the porch, "Marie won't wake up and she is stiff!"
Rhonda ran from the patio, jerked the covers off of Marie who had already gone into regormortis. 9-1-1 was called. Neighbors hear the screams of Rhonda and Maxine and come runing. Emergency crews were there within ten minutes - responding "two year old unresponsive" The operator is guiding the neighbor from upstairs, Rosie (name changed), over the phone how to give CPR to a child, until help arrives. Upon the arrival of EMS, Marie is declared deceased.
The neighbor upstairs has her niece take Maxine away from the area - "a child doesn't need to see these things."
Jason's parents, his friend in Huffman, Rhonda's mother have all been called. Jason arrives home during all the commotion.
Rhonda is placed in one police car, Jason another.
Jason told investigators that he had gone to the San Jacinto river bridge and slept the rest of the night away there. He lied. He had gone to his drug supplier's house in Huffman. He was there when the call came in about Marie.
At the apartment, Jason's concho belt was placed into evidence, as was a bloody wash cloth and other items. A lot of crime scene photos were taken.
This was now classified as a homicide.
On my first review of the pictures of Marie during the autopsy - there appears to be a bruise which has two sides to it. The outer edges of the bruise appear to be more dominant than the others. I surmised from the very beginning this bruised was caused by a hair brush which would be solid on the edges and concave - considering there was no bruising in the center part.
Police were speculating that the bruise was cause by Jason's belt with conchos on it. The conchos were octave - meaning they protruded outward. If Marie had been hit on the head with the concho belt, the bruising would've been more dominant in the center of the area rather than on the outer area.
The funeral for Marie was "stressful" according to the funeral home folks. They were having to keep Lindy away from her mother, as CPS had already removed Maxine from Rhonda. There was tension with the biological father, Jason F and Rhonda. Jason was asked not to come to the funeral. His family attended. They were stared down. They loved Marie as if she were their own.
Jason was later arrested and charged with capital murder of a child under the age of six, which in Texas carries the death penalty.
Our investigation revealed the time of death occurred prior to Rhonda coming back to the apartment. We held tight with our summation that the death occurred out of Jason's presence.
Body temperature at the time Marie was found that morning, food still visible and distinguishable in her stomach during the autopsy, a bowel movement prior to being put to bed (which was never changed by Rhonda), the air temperature - all moved the time period of death prior to 11pm. Jason was no where around during that time. Cause of death - bleed out from the spleen. Marie had been hit, or had hurt herself when she fell and bled out.
Medical books state that bleed out from the spleen on a child this age and size would occur within 10-15 minutes.
Rhonda at some point, prior to Marie's murder, had started calling IRS and other agencies regarding Jason F. She was reporting that he wasn't paying his child support, that he was working and that his dad was either paying him under the table of through a pseudo name. Her phone records should many calls to the agencies. She was determined to "get her money".
We believe that Jason F knew of Rhonda's reporting. Both Jason F and Rhonda were fiesty and quick tempered.
Shortly after Marie's death, approximately 3 months at the most, Rhonda went to a Halloween party in costume, at a club in Onalaska where she placed - I think third place - in the costume contest. She already had another man that she was living with somewhere near Livingston.
Mike made every request for production of records possible. By happenstance Mike learned that the Assistant District Attorney, (who is now a judge) and others had ex parte meetings with Maxine which were not tape recorded nor revealed to him. Mike had the entire district attorney's office recused for manufacturing evidence.
A special prosecutor, Garcia was appointed. Garcia held a "mock trial" He had the witnesses present (many who refused to talk to the defense) to testify. Afterwards, after our plea out, we learn of this mock trial and that some jurors believed Jason was not guilty. The issue of the time of death played a huge part in the findings of fact.
The pathologist couldn't give a time of death. The same pathologist who's record involving the death of childrens has been in question many times. Several cases have been reversed and remanded for new trials or the defendant was exonerated because of her lack of or poor findings of facts.
The original punishment was death, it went down to life, offers for a plea went down to 45 years, then to 40, then to 35, then to 25 then to 20 years.
It was Jason's decision to take the deal or go to trial. Trial was to begin on Monday Jason, maintained his innocence, but for fear of not knowing what twelve jurors would do to him, he took the deal. Our defense team was ready for trial.
The night before Jason made the decision, he asked me what I thought of the deal. I told him I couldn't tell him what to do, but for the first time in his life, that he would have to make a hard decision - but whatever he did - for the first time in his adult life - "think smart". He asked me what I meant by "think smart" - and I explained, "way all your odds - pro, con and indifferent - and do not be influenced by anyone - this is your life - you will have to live it and you will have to do the time - no one else - and only you can make the choice."
Jason was given a bullet proof vest prior to being taken into the courtroom. SWAT was everywhere - on the roof - in the hall - - in the courtroom - everywhere there were SWAT - even stairwells and elevators were closed off.
Our client was given the twenty years in Texas' prison. The paternal grandmother gave an impact statement. She asked if she could send birthday cards for Marie to him on the date of Marie's birthday each year to remind him of what they had lost. She wanted to taunt him. She couldn't forgive him. Jason was hauled off immediately after sentencing and the impact statement was made.
I have not seen nor heard from Jason since the night prior to his plea out. I have thought of him many times - and will probably go to my death saying and believing that this man did not kill Marie. Who do I believe did it? I can't say - though I would surely like to. Do I have my thoughts as to who did it? You bet I do, without reservation or doubt. Can I prove it? No. I do hope that her/his guilty conscience and the face of Marie in her/his mind will haunt them until the day they die.
I do believe there are many men and women , who are incarcerated, have taken pleas just to keep from going before a jury, who may be sympathetic to a child and give him/her a long sentence. With the time that Jason had already spent in County jail and good behavior in TDCJ, hopefully he will be released for parole when his time is 10 years (or about 50% of his sentence).
When Jason is released, I hope he finds his way in life. I hope he finds peace. I hope he will someday have the family that he so strongly hoped for with Rhonda and the girls. And, somewhere along the way - I hope his family finds peace as well.