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ST. GEORGE — A Toquerville mother accused of severely abusing her 12-year-old son, including locking him in a bathroom for a year, pleaded guilty as charged Tuesday to spare her children a painful trial and to hopefully see them again someday, her attorney said.
Brandy K. Jaynes, 36, pleaded guilty to three counts of intentional child abuse causing serious injury, all second-degree felonies, with no deal offered from prosecutors and no reduction to the charges.
Jaynes appeared resolute Tuesday as she firmly told the judge "guilty" three times.
Each charge carries a potential sentence of one to 15 years in prison.
"She did this without any promises whatsoever," Jaynes' court-appointed attorney, Edward Flint, said following the hearing.
Prosecutor Angie Reddish-Day said Jaynes "took responsibility for her actions" as she entered her pleas. The three charges were filed in connection to the boy's starvation, intellectual and developmental delays "caused by his captivity," and the ongoing impact that malnourishment had on the boy's ability to walk, Reddish-Day said.
Since being taken from the home seven months ago, the boy has shown dramatic improvement, including regaining his strength and putting on weight, the prosecutor said.
"After being taken out of that horrible environment, he started to progress very well almost immediately," Reddish-Day said. "With proper nutrition, proper medical care, proper love and affection, he has really been very resilient and is really bouncing back quite remarkably."
While Flint told Jaynes he was prepared to take the case before a jury in hopes of securing a lesser conviction and sentence, Jaynes didn't want to see her children be put on a witness stand or subjected to teasing and humiliation.
"The reality is we all accept that a large number of these facts are true and very provable, and that her son did suffer some severe consequences of behavior that is totally attributable to her," Flint said.
"There were a number of motivators," he said, "(but) the biggest one was to stop the pain, stop additional suffering her children were going to have by fighting this thing."
Details of the disturbing case sparked worldwide outrage after Jaynes' arrest. Police said the 12-year-old boy was found in a feces-filled bathroom that had been fitted with locks on the outside of the doors. The emaciated boy was found lying on a blanket, unable to use his legs because he was too weak, police said.
In a January interview, Flint said Jaynes told him that since infancy, the boy has struggled with a medical condition that causes frequent vomiting and diarrhea. The woman told her attorney she struggled to find things the boy would eat, had been giving him protein shakes to try to counteract his weight loss and had taken him to see a pediatrician who advised he would "grow out of it."
When the boy's condition got out of control, Flint said, "the child ended up living in the bathroom."
According to police, the boy's father brought his malnourished son to Dixie Regional Medical Center on Jan. 8, prompting police to investigate the situation at the home.
Flint has argued that the father didn't suddenly find his weakened son in the bathroom, but has been living in the home and was aware of what was going on.
Russell Orin Jaynes, 40, the boy's father, 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."
Russell Jaynes is due in court July 31 for what has been scheduled as a possible resolution hearing.
Flint has said his client didn't act maliciously when she put the boy in the bathroom but was overwhelmed by her son's special needs and forgotten by community support systems, leaving her family in crisis.
Rather than prison, Flint hopes to ask that Brandy Jaynes be sentenced to a year in jail followed by probation. After serving a jail sentence, Flint said, the woman would be eligible to someday seek supervised visits with her children, but if she is sentenced to prison, she won't be.
Brandy Jaynes has two other children, including the 12-year-old boy's twin sister, both of whom are healthy, Flint said. The children are in the care of relatives, and a custody case in the juvenile court system is ongoing, Flint said.
Flint on Tuesday requested a presentence report and potentially a psychological evaluation for Jaynes, which he said would evaluate her amenability to treatment and whether she is a danger to others.
"I think she would come out with a positive review," Flint said. "Typically with a first-time offender like this, you look at them with an eye toward rehabilitation first rather than just punishment."
Because Jaynes is indigent, Flint said, the evaluation would have to be approved and paid for by the court. If the evaluation is allowed, "We'll do our best to be able to show the judge something about the inner workings of her mind. What happened? Did she snap? I mean, that was my conjecture."
Flint is also beginning efforts to collect character references and expert opinions about Jaynes to present at her sentencing hearing Aug. 28.
Reddish-Day said the boy will also have an opportunity to prepare a victim impact statement for the judge "to let the court know how this crime has impacted his life." The boy has not yet decided whether he will speak in person at the sentencing hearing.
"I need to talk with him now that we've reached this stage of the proceedings and see how he feels about that. It is his mother, after all," Reddish-Day said.