Foster mother: Boy at center of abuse trial was voracious eater

By By Johnathan Manning / American Press

A former foster mother of a boy prosecutors say was abused and starved by his stepmother testified in state district court

Friday that the boy was a voracious eater during the three years he lived with her.

The boy’s stepmother, Jaime Day, 31, 2841 Southern Ridge Road, is on trial on one count of second-degree cruelty to a juvenile.

Day was arrested, along with the boy’s father, Murry Day, in March 2010. Murry Day is being prosecuted separately.

Prosecutors allege that Jaime Day brutally abused the boy and starved him.

When the child was taken to the hospital in 2009, when he was 9 years old, he weighed 38 pounds and was malnourished and badly

bruised, according to previous court testimony.

The prosecution rested at noon Friday, and the defense called its first witness late Friday afternoon. The trial will reconvene

Tuesday morning because court is closed Monday for Veterans Day.

The prosecution showed a video Day took of the boy on his knees crying in the middle of the family’s trailer home. Prosecutors

said the video was more than 20 minutes long, but only showed just over four minutes to the jury.

After about 15 seconds had been shown, the video was restarted to make sure it was playing from the beginning. “Do we have

to watch this?” one of the jurors asked. “Please don’t blurt out questions like that,” Judge Clayton Davis responded.

After more than four minutes Davis asked for the video to be stopped, and prosecutor Lori Nunn said that was all she planned

to show.

The words the wailing child was saying were difficult to hear in the courtroom. Day could be heard telling someone that she

was recording it so others could see his behavior and that he would “be hospitalized before the day was out.”

Day also said she put him on his knees because he hurt himself. “Please, Mama, I don’t want to hurt myself,” the crying boy

said. He also asked her, “Why are you doing this to me?”

“You’re doing it all to yourself,” Day replied.

The boy testified in court Tuesday that Day made him cry while in the video, standing behind the camera and motioning for

him to cry.

Clinical psychologist Lawrence Dilks said the boy told him he had been made to kneel in a pan of rice and act out, although

no pan of rice could be seen in the video.

Both Dilks and Dr. Scott Benton, a

child abuse pediatrician from Mississippi, testified they believed the

video was staged,

both mentioning that the boy stayed in one place the entire video.

Although the boy was wailing, he made sense when he spoke,

Dilks said.

“I’ve seen some really great temper tantrums, and this just doesn’t cut it,” Dilks said.

He “follows a script, if you will,” Benton said.

Even if the boy wasn’t physically abused, the way Day talks to the child in the video is “prime evidence of emotional abuse,”

Benton said.

During his three years as a foster

child with the Sportsman family, the child stayed on the honor roll,

only making one C,

Susan Sportsman said. She described him as a happy child who got

along well with others and was not in trouble at school “other

than talking too much.”

“I miss him terribly,” Sportsman said.

If allowed, the boy would eat until he was sick, doing so twice until he vomited, Sportsman said. He could eat a whole box

of cereal or a whole casserole, she said. “We worked real hard on slowing down and chewing,” she said.

He had a hard time throwing away leftovers and constantly checked the food supply in the kitchen, she said. “He wanted to

save everything, even if it was just a bite left,” Sportsman said.

He would hoard food and did not want to give food away, the foster mother said. “I would find it in the strangest places,”

she said.

When he threw a tantrum, it was usually over food, Sportsman said. The tantrums would get worse around the holidays, when

the boy would want to see his family, she testified.

In November 2011, when the Sportsman family had fostered the boy for 13 months, he had a tantrum over food and told Sportsman

he wanted to kill her, then apologized and said he wanted to kill himself, she said.

He had made previous suicidal statements to her, which she had reported to a case worker, Sportsman said. The case worker

had told her to take him to the emergency room if he did so again, she said.

“I didn’t really believe he would kill himself,” but took him to the ER because the case worker had asked her to do so, she

said.

He stayed in a psychiatric unit for a week, after which time he never made such threats again, she said.

Sportsman said the child attacked her several times, including an incident when she would not allow him to eat another snack.

He was “trying to get the point across that he needed to eat another snack,” she said.

Sportsman caught him shoplifting twice, she said. Both times, she made him take the items back and apologize, she said.

Sportsman said that it took six or seven months to explain to the boy that if he dropped or spilled something by accident,

he wasn’t going to get in trouble.

The child told Sportsman he hated salt because Day would cram a handful of salt into his mouth because she wanted him to die,

Sportsman said. The boy, now 13, told the same story Tuesday in court.

Benton, the pediatrician, said the

behavior the boy exhibited while with the Sportsman family was

consistent with a history

of starvation. He said he did not believe a child the boy’s age

would go on a hunger strike and that when people around the

boy provided him with food he “scarfs” it.

Benton also said that when children

purposely injure themselves the injuries are usually superficial and not

the severity

of the bruising the boy had. He said the scars around the child’s

ankles were “very unusual” absent a history of playing with

ropes.

The photos taken at the hospital in March 2010 showed ligature marks around the boy’s ankles, according to previous testimony.

Blake Lisotta, a nephew of Day’s, said it was he who placed a sock of rice on the boy’s back in 2009. The boy testified Tuesday

that Day kicked him in the back, then placed a sock of rice on the bruise, burning him. Photos from his admittance to the

hospital show a large burn on his back.

Lisotta, now 17, said he heated the

“redneck heating pad” in the microwave for 15 seconds, grabbed it with

his own hands to

make sure it wasn’t too hot, then put it on the boy’s back for

about half an hour, Lisotta said. The boy showed no signs of

pain, Lisotta said.

Nunn showed Lisotta pictures of the

boy’s burn, then asked him if he had done that to the child. “No,

ma’am,” Lisotta replied.

The boy also testified that Day then washed the wound with a

sponge in the bathroom. Lisotta said he did not hear him scream.

Lisotta also said the boy told him he had burned himself on the stomach with a hair dryer, leaving a scar in the shape of

a G on his abdomen. The boy testified it was Day who burned him with the hair dryer.

The boy was attached at the hip to Day,

who treated all three of the children the same, Lisotta said. The boy

regularly urinated

and defecated in his pants, both at home and when they went out,

Lisotta said. The boy said he couldn’t make it to the bathroom,

Lisotta said. Day fed the boy the same thing she fed her sons, but

he would often refuse to eat what was served, Lisotta said.

Several pictures drawn by the boy for

psychologist Lawrence Dilks were shown to the jury. Pictures drawn in

April 2010 depict

abuse the boy claims Day inflicted on him. In one of the pictures

he has a black eye and is held to the bed with Saran wrap,

in another he is in the bathtub and Day is picking up a

screwdriver sitting nearby and throwing it at him and in a third picture

he is hanging by his ankles on a door in the bathroom.

On the stand Tuesday, the boy told the jury each of the three stories depicted in the pictures.

In August 2010, he drew pictures of the same three instances and drew pictures of Day kicking him in the hallway and hitting

him with the cord from an iron.

Dilks, who saw the boy several times in 2010 and reviewed his psychiatric record, said the child suffered from abuse, neglect

and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The boy was admitted to the hospital in 2009 because of complaints that he was hurting himself, but the boy’s disposition

was “very contradictory,” Dilks said. His behavior was “very compliant,” he said.

Dilks said the foster mother the boy stayed with after March 2010 told him the boy was concerned Day would hurt him if she

got out of jail. The foster mother said the boy would panic when she cooked rice and say Day would cook rice and put it on

his back, Dilks said.

The boy told the foster mother he didn’t like the bathroom because that’s where Day had tried to drown him; that Day did not

feed him; that Day had tied him to the bed with clear foil; that Day had tied him up by a hook in the bathroom; had thrown

a screwdriver at him; and hit him with a dustpan, Dilks said.