ST. GEORGE — A 12-year-old Toquerville boy, whose abuse case sparked worldwide outrage after he was found lying on a filthy bathroom floor, severely malnourished and unable to move because his legs weren't strong enough, doesn't remember exactly how long he was kept in his "torture chamber," as prosecutors called it.
But the boy remembers hearing his siblings and parents open Christmas presents. Twice.
On Monday, a judge imposed the maximum sentence on the boy's mother, Brandy K. Jaynes, 36, convicted of three counts of intentional child abuse causing serious injury, a second-degree felony. She was sentenced to one to 15 years in the Utah State Prison for each count, with all counts to be served consecutively.
Before sentencing her, 5th District Judge Eric Ludlow called the abuse "deplorable" and "appalling." He made Jaynes look at a picture of the room her son was locked in, where Post-it notes with messages such as "Touch the camera, I will kick your butt with a stick” and "You will act like a human at all times” were duct taped to the wall.
"You did not act like a human at all times," Ludlow told Jaynes. "I’ve never seen anything like this. It's unbelievable, quite frankly."
Jaynes denied writing the notes, claiming the boy's twin sister was the culprit.
Details of the disturbing case caused a widespread outcry after Jaynes' arrest in January. Police said the 12-year-old boy was living in a feces-filled bathroom that had been fitted with locks on the outside of the doors. He weighed just 30 pounds when he was found.
Before being sentenced Monday, prosecutor Angie Reddish-Day revealed that the boy may have been locked up from four to eight years, based on witness statements and other evidence, including the boy's physical and mental condition,
It started with him being locked in a bedroom with no bed, being forced to lie on wood planks as Jaynes poured water on him, Reddish-Day said. The boy was later moved to a stand-up shower stall where boards were put up to keep him in. Evidence of food where the boy ate was found by investigators in the shower, she said. And later, he was moved to the small bathroom, where because of its size, the boy stopped growing.
What really puts this case in a different category is that she had a live feed camera watching him suffer every single day. ... She can’t say she didn’t know what was happening because she watched it happening.
–Angie Reddish-Day, prosecutor
And possibly the worst part about the case, according to Reddish-Day, was that Jaynes watched as her son withered away.
"What really puts this case in a different category is that she had a live feed camera watching him suffer every single day. That level of criminal knowledge and criminal intent is just, it’s hard to put words to it. That you could do that to your child; that you could witness that happen to your child. She can’t say she didn’t know what was happening because she watched it happening,” she said.
On the day Jaynes was arrested, the live feed from the bathroom was still connected to her phone.
Before Ludlow announced his sentence, Reddish-Day made a strongly worded presentation to the court asking that the maximum penalty be imposed. She presented pictures of the boy and the bathroom to the judge, describing it as "clearly set up as a chamber to torture this boy."
Outside the courthouse, Reddish-Day admitted it had been an aggressive prosecution at every stage of the proceedings.
"Because there’s really no other case like it. And honestly, I could have talked for four hours about this case. I could have laid out so many more facts,” she said.
On the other side, defense attorney Ed Flint described his client as a woman who got in over her head and didn't ask for help when she should have.
"It's impossible for the defense to put a nice shine on this case," he told the judge.
But Flint said Jaynes does feel remorse for what happened. He said she became addicted to meth and heroin during the final four months leading up to her arrest.
But when Ludlow asked why this boy was abused and his two siblings weren't, he didn't have an answer.
"I don’t think she understands either, herself, your honor," he replied. Outside the courtroom, he told reporters: "None of us understand how it got to this point. She doesn’t understand and she’s the perpetrator."
Jaynes declined to address the court during sentencing. But in a memorandum filed late last week, Flint included a handwritten letter from his client.
I screwed up by not getting help. I hurt him by not getting help. And for this I'm so very sorry.
–Brandy Jaynes, letter to court
In it, she says that she is sorry for what she did and that she misses her children.
"The media and everybody else has said some really horrible things that are not true but paints a picture of me that I'm the most horrible person on Earth. I never meant for this to happen," Jaynes wrote. "I screwed up by not getting help. I hurt him by not getting help. And for this, I'm so very sorry."
"This whole case has grown so out of proportion," she wrote. "It has portrayed me from the beginning to be the worst of the worst," while later adding, "I am guilty for not doing what should have been done. I regret it so much."
While stating that his client wasn't trying to deflect blame, Flint noted to the judge that it was "baffling" how no one knew what was going on inside the house, particularly the boy's father who there.
Russell Orin Jaynes, 40, is charged with child abuse, a third-degree felony. Prosecutors have called the father's actions "reckless" but have contended that Brandy Jaynes is the "primary defendant."
Reddish-Day called Jaynes a "master manipulator" and was able to keep both her husband and her own mother away from the room that her son was locked in. At times, she physically prevented them from looking in the room, the state argued. Russell Jaynes said he hadn't seen his son in a year, until he finally picked the lock on the bathroom door when his wife was gone and found his son lying on the floor unable to move.
The state and defense disagree on the boy's condition prior to being abused. Brandy Jaynes contends he was expelled from school in second grade and was a special needs child, and she soon became overwhelmed because no one offered her any help.
The state, however, said it was Jaynes that purposely kept everyone away. Reddish-Day contends Jaynes pulled her son out of school to "home-school" him but simply ended up abusing him. As for his alleged conditions prior to being abused, she said multiple doctors have concluded there were none.
"The evidence is that there’s nothing at all wrong with this child that would have caused her to feel overwhelmed in caring for him. That’s just her excuse and her attempt to limit her culpability in this case, and there’s just no truth to it,” she said.
Since being removed from the small bathroom, the boy has quickly grown and gained weight. And he can eat anything without throwing-up or having any digestive problems, as Jaynes had previously suggested.
Reddish-Day also presented a short letter written by the boy to the court. Ludlow said the part of the letter he found most heart-wrenching was when the boy wrote that he "didn't care" what happened to his mother, though he said he still wanted to see her at some point because "she's still my mother."
After court, Reddish-Day said her first reaction to the sentence was sadness.
"Real sadness for the victim in this case and the children in this entire family. There’s no winners in this case,” she said.
Flint said the sentence was not unexpected. He had filed a motion prior to the hearing requesting the three counts be condensed into one because Jaynes' crime was one continuous act and did not constitute three separate incidents of abuse. Ludlow denied that motion on Monday. Flint said he is considering an appeal on that issue.
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