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Boy’s injuries detailed in first day of trial


The Herald-Dispatch

NOTE: The following story contains graphic content.

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Three-year-old Jayden Jones was cold, limp and lifeless by the time he was found dead and taken to an area hospital, according to testimony given Wednesday at a Cabell County trial alleging murder by the hands of his parents.

Aaron Brendon Miles, 32, and Mariya Ajena Jones, 24, the child’s stepfather and mother, are charged in a 16-count indictment with first-degree murder, murder of a child by a parent/guardian, death of a child by a parent/guardian, conspiracy to commit child abuse causing bodily injury and two counts of child neglect creating a substantial risk of injury.

Emergency Medical Services employees found Jayden after being called to a home in the 1800 block of 7th Avenue in Huntington on July 12, 2016, for a 911 call coded as a cardiac arrest and found the boy dead.

A trial for the murder charges is ongoing, with opening arguments in the case made Wednesday despite the fact that on Tuesday Miles pleaded guilty to two charges of child neglect and Jones to three charges of child abuse.

Prosecutor Peggy Brown, who is assisted by assistant prosecutor Kent Bryson, said in opening statements that Jayden died of sepsis as a result of two holes in his bowels. There was no bruising on his stomach, but deep tissue bruising blackened his back. She said the boy was most likely stomped on the back while lying down, which resulted in the formation of the holes.

“Jayden was left on the bathroom floor with a sheet and a pillow,” she said. “He died there alone and in excruciating pain, sick and battered.”

Jones’ counsel, Gina Stanley, who is assisted by Todd Meadows, said the prosecution’s case was based solely on emotion, speculation and opinion – not facts. Stanley argued the prosecution’s witnesses did not know which alleged blow would have led to Jayden’s death, who had delivered it, or when.

She pointed to uneven stairs, a high bed and slide outside when indicating the injuries could have been self-inflicted accidents. She urged the jury to use logic and not emotion when making their decision. Jones is a small person and could not do much damage, she implied. Witnesses said she was gentler with her son than her co-defendant, she said, adding that Miles even admitted to police, and media at his arraignment, to beating the victim.

“She has pleaded guilty to all the counts of child abuse she was charged with because she did nothing to stop the abuse that was happening,” Stanley said.

Miles’ attorney, Kerry Nessel, assisted by Owen Reynolds, argued Brown cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that any abuse or neglect at the hand of his client occurred within the time frame alleged in the indictment and led to Jayden’s death.

He pointed to a brace on Mariya Jones’ wrist in a police department photo, an injury she said she incurred from punching a wall, as showing she had a violent side. He read text messages allegedly sent by Jones on July 8, 2016, to a family member threatening to kill the toddler.

“I’ll pay. Please I can’t keep beating his (butt) the way I do. He not () listening at all. Every day he do something dumb,” Nessel read.

The text messages say Jayden was acting out, stealing food, wetting himself and cursing about his siblings and mother. The following messages go on to say the messenger needs a break before the sender kills the victim.

Huntington Police Lt. David Castle, a forensic investigator, took the stand Wednesday afternoon to authenticate about two dozen photos of Jayden taken after his death. His fellow forensic investigator, Stephen Compton, also verified photos he took inside the home and some items removed from the residence.

The defendants did not look at the photos, while their attorneys objected to each photo submitted and jurors wiped tears from their eyes.

The photos were graphic. Bruising started at Jayden’s top right temple and continued, along with abrasions, scarring, cuts and welts, to the bottom of his feet and all around his body. His stomach stuck out prominently.

At one point, a pink toy about 12 inches long was presented as evidence. Castle said circles on the toy matched bruising found on Jones, speculating it could have been used in beatings.

Several leather belts, a jump rope and wires from a vacuum cleaner found around the home were also introduced as evidence.

Another bruise on the child’s thigh was large. Dark marks in the shape of hollow teardrops were visible, almost forming a heart. The forensic investigators speculated the bruising came from some type of cord, possibly to a vacuum, bent in half in an abuser’s hand.

Both investigators said they did not send any of the items off for testing to see what type of DNA was on the items; whether they were used in hitting the child could not be verified. Investigators said their testimony was opinion and speculation based on years of experience.

Only one person testified they had seen Jayden physically abused, but after a falling out with the boy’s parents, he had not seen the defendants for a couple of months before their arrest.

Former Marshall University safety Tiquan Lang was friends with the defendants for four or five months prior to Jayden’s death. He said the boy was quiet and he had tried to befriend him.

“He was a great little man,” he said.

He testified Jayden was treated differently than his siblings and would often be secluded from the family. He was told the 3-year-old would be in trouble for potty training accidents and stealing baby bottles.

On at least one occasion, Lang bought food for Jayden because he worried he was not being fed.

Lang said he saw both defendants hit the child, although he told detectives Jones could not do much damage because of her size. He said he saw Miles force the boy to do pushups and hit him, but he never saw Jayden cry.

He never contacted police or child protective services about the abuse, however.

Nessel said Lang’s testimony did not apply to the criminal charges, because his friendship with the defendants ended before the time period alleged in the indictment against the pair.

Stanley said Lang’s testimony was pure speculation and hearsay, noting that he did not know what type of pain or hunger Jayden was experiencing and only saw him on occasion.

On the day of the boy’s death, the children had been left alone while Miles and Jones ran errands. She went to DHHR and he went to look at potential new homes, get food and put air in tires. Jayden was last seen about an hour before the 911 call came in.

Samuel Roy, a Huntington firefighter, and David McClure, a paramedic for Cabell County EMS, were among the first to arrive to the scene just after noon after receiving a call for a cardiac arrest.

The two testified that when they arrived, Jayden was found in a hall in the home. They began doing CPR and prepping equipment to attempt to bring the boy back to consciousness.

The home had bad lighting, the pair said, so he was taken outside of the home. When Roy grabbed Jayden and found he was cold to the touch, he said he knew the child was dead and the attempt to revive him would not be successful. McClure said Jayden had blue lips and fingertips, a sign he had been dead for a while.

Still, the child was placed on a gurney outside and taken to Cabell Huntington Hospital, but on the way, a physician agreed it was too late to revive him.

Roy said the defendants had a calm demeanor while first responders attempted to revive Jayden. McClure said they were yelling. Roy did not remember if their demeanor had changed to match what McClure said.

Stanley said the two first responders would not know how any individual person would react in that situation, while Nessel said his client was trying to be calm for his wife.

Dr. Joshua Haddox, an emergency room doctor at the hospital, said Jayden was dead upon arrival to the hospital and had clear bruising on his face and fluid coming from his ears. He said there was evidence of a head injury possibly being the cause of death, but did not make any final determinations.

The trial will continue at 9 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 14, in Cabell County Circuit Judge Paul T. Farrell’s courtroom, with child abuse as torture expert Barbra Knox expected to testify for prosecution.

Follow reporter Courtney Hessler at and via Twitter@HesslerHD.

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