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Deseret News

Provo mom, boyfriend charged in baby's death

By Whitney Evans | Posted - Oct 10th, 2013 @ 6:27pm

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SALT LAKE CITY — Criminal charges were filed Thursday against the mother of a 3-month-old baby and her boyfriend in connection with the child's death last November.

Brianna Brown, 32, and her boyfriend Joshua Jay Harding, 30, were each charged in 4th District Court with child abuse homicide, a first-degree felony. Brown was also charged with child abuse, a second-degree felony, and two counts of endangerment of a child, a third-degree felony.

On Nov. 27, 2012, police responded to Brown's Provo residence and found that Paxton Stokes was not breathing. Paxton was declared dead at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center soon after.

Paxton had "bruising and abrasions covering his body" when he died and the bruises were in different stages of healing, "indicating that the blows were inflicted at separate times," charging documents state. "There was also evidence of a possible leg fracture that had healed."

An autopsy showed that Paxton died from "a non-accidental closed head injury," investigators wrote. "Paxton suffered subarachnoid hemorrhaging throughout his brain and spinal cord from blows to the head. The extent of the injury indicated an excessive amount of force having been inflicted."

Both Harding and Brown had been home the day of Paxton's death, but Harding was tending the baby while Brown "went to the methadone clinic and took the other children to school," the charges state.

Prosecutors contend that the time between when Paxton received the wounds and when he died place Brown and Harding as the only people who were with the baby.

Harding was charged in July with child abuse homicide, a first-degree felony, but prosecutors asked a judge to drop that charge the next day while more evidence was gathered.

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Harding told officers he had been in bed with the baby that morning. He said the baby started crying when he changed his diaper and after he laid him down in the bassinet but said he eventually stopped crying, a police affidavit states. After the boy's mother returned home, Harding asked the mother to get him and she discovered that the baby was unresponsive.

In another police interview, Harding denied shaking Paxton but said the baby "was crying and very angry" and had soiled his blanket and clothing, the affidavit states.

Brown told police she never hurt her baby and didn't see or hear anyone else abuse him, "despite the numerous bruises and other obvious indications that the child was being abused," police wrote in the affidavit.

Brown allegedly told police that the bruising and abrasions to Paxton's neck occurred when he was being cleaned under the chin with a washcloth, but investigators said the injuries were inconsistent with a cleaning.

At the time of Paxton's birth, Brown was using controlled substances, which were found in the baby's system, according to the charges filed Thursday. Brown also has a 2-year-old who allegedly had controlled substances in his system at birth.

The two endangerment charges against Brown accuse her of allowing a child to be exposed to a controlled substance.


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