Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist has amended charges against Mark Anthony Brown, Jr., 26, from assault of a child in the first degree to murder in the second degree after 3-year-old J.H. died from injuries prosecutors believe Brown caused last month.
J.H. was Brown’s girlfriend’s child. J.H. was developmentally delayed and needed assistance with things like getting dressed. He was also nonverbal.
On June 26, Tacoma Police Officer Williams responded to Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital regarding a possible assault of a child. Hospital staff advised Williams that 3-year-old J.H. had been admitted overnight with brain bleeds and brain damage consistent with lack of oxygen to the brain.
Williams spoke with Dr. Whitt, who stated that J.H.’s prognosis was likely death or significant permanent brain damage. Dr. Whitt stated that J.H. had some bleeding on the brain that could have been caused by “shaken baby syndrome,” and the lack of oxygen could have been caused by the bleeding, brain swelling, or because J.H. likely stopped breathing at some point due to his brain injuries.
The child’s mother, Ebony Horton, told investigators Brown picked up J.H. and a sibling from her, as she had to go to work that evening. She said both children were fine when Brown picked them up.
Horton says that when she got home from work at about 1 a.m., she gave J.H. a kiss goodnight and sensed something was wrong. She noticed that J.H.’s body was “off.” Horton said his body was stiff and he started to shake. They rushed him to the hospital.
Brown told officers that he picked up the children from their mother and both children appeared to be fine. He denied injuring J.H.
Officers also spoke to the sibling, 4-year-old D.H., who said J.H. vomited while at their father’s house and there was a “big mess.” D.H. said Brown “spanked J.H.’s butt because he throwed up” but then said that Brown didn’t spank him but said that he had picked him up and was holding him. D.H. also described J.H. as “shaking,” that J.H. was “shaking his body.”
Dr. Elizabeth Woods with the Child Abuse Intervention Department at Mary Bridge Hospital was consulted, and in her medical opinion, J.H.’s brain injury was caused by non-accidental, abusive head trauma and his injuries were consistent with violent shaking or hitting a surface.
Brown’s bail is set at $1,000,000.
Charges are only allegations and a person is presumed innocent unless he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.