A man charged with killing the 2-year-old son of his girlfriend earlier this week was denied bail at his initial court appearance Thursday. The boy’s mother, who allegedly left her son with her boyfriend despite knowing about the abuse the child was suffering, was ordered held on $200,000 bail.
Dejon Waters, 21, faces a charge of first-degree murder in the death of the toddler, Ja’hir Gibbons, whose body was covered with new and old bruises when he was brought to Comer Children’s Hospital on Monday for treatment, according to authorities.
The boy’s mother, 28-year-old Brittany Hyc, faces a charge of endangering the life of a child resulting in death, Cook County prosecutors said.
Despite being on the radar of child protection officials, Ja’hir suffered longstanding abuse, which resulted in his death Monday, prosecutors said.
Hyc came home from work that evening after picking her 5-year-old son up from school and found Ja’hir unresponsive and not breathing on the floor of their Washington Park home in the 6000 block of South Prairie Avenue, prosecutors said.
She waited at least 20 minutes to go to a neighbor’s home for help while she tried to get Waters to tell her what had happened to her son, Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy said. Waters went to the store to buy cigarettes when Hyc left for the neighbor’s home. Officials said was the neighbor who called 911 about 6:50 p.m.
The neighbor felt a weak pulse on the boy’s arm and attempted CPR until police officers arrived, Murphy said. Ja’hir was brought to Comer, but was pronounced dead shortly after.
An autopsy found Ja’hir had rib fractures that were at various stages of healing and a new wrist fracture, Murphy said. Ja’hir had also suffered lacerations to his liver and a contusion to the lung. To suffer those injuries, the boy would have been subjected to “significant blunt force trauma,” Murphy added.
Waters, who appeared in court in a blue jumpsuit, kept his head down during the hearing, but shook his head slightly when prosecutors said he had admitted to beating Ja’hir with his hands and a rolled up T-shirt when he got mad at the boy on Monday. The beating caused Ja’hir to begin “foaming at the mouth,” prosecutors said Waters told detectives.
Hyc told investigators she had noticed bruises on the boy for a week or two prior to his death and said that burns on the boy’s face were from toothpaste, Murphy said. A search of her iPad found she had searched the internet for how to hide bruises in the days before Ja’hir’s death.
Prosecutors said state’s Department of Children and Family Services was recently in contact with the family following an incident in August.
At that time, Hyc had taken Ja’hir to a doctor for a possible bite mark to his abdomen and doctors found additional bruising on the boy, which Hyc blamed on the boy’s daycare facility. In October, a DCFS worker went to the home and heard what they believed was Waters striking the boy. The worker called the Child Abuse Hotline and another agency employee was assigned to follow up, prosecutors said.
Police were called to the home in February after a neighbor reported a possible domestic disturbance. Hyc told officers at that time that everything was fine, but the same neighbor later noticed Ja’hir walking with a limp, prosecutors said.
Just two days before the boy’s death, a DCFS caseworker tried to make contact with the family at their home, prosecutors said. The caseworker talked with Hyc and her 5-year-old son, but Ja’hir was not present. The caseworker made arrangements to follow up with the family again the following week.
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Service is “conducting a full investigating of this death to understand how and why this occurred,” agency spokesman James Whitelow said in a statement.
Police records show Waters was taken into custody at the hospital on Monday night and was also found wanted on a warrant charging him with possession of a controlled substance. Hyc was taken into custody the following day, according to her arrest report.
Hyc was not in court for the hearing Thursday because she was hospitalized for a mental health evaluation, an officer testified in court.
Assistant Public Defender Steven Stach said Waters had attended high school through his junior year and had been unemployed since January. Stach said that, other than the pending drug charge, Waters had no criminal history. Stach said he had not been able to talk with Hyc, but described her as a single mother who was working to support her family.
Judge Michael Clancy ordered Waters held without bail on the murder charge and set Hyc’s bail at $200,000, noting the length of the abuse the boy was subjected to and the recent searches on her iPad for how to cover up the abuse.
Both were scheduled to appear in court next on March 27.