Tony Perrotta of the Cartersville law firm Perrotta and Cahn said Monday his client, Jamie Beck of Bartow County, is not guilty in the October 2012 death of her daughter, Kaylee Rayne Johnson, and he has prepared a request to ask that a bond amount be set for her release.
District Attorney Shannon Wallace, however, said she would stand against that request.
“Based on the charges and the facts of the case, I am opposed to bond at this time,” Wallace said Monday.
Beck is in custody without bond at the Cherokee County Adult Detention Center on charges of felony murder and first degree cruelty to children in the case after being arrested Friday, along with her former boyfriend Michael Naples, 31, of Woodstock, who faces the same charges, police records show.
The suspects were arrested after an 11-month investigation into the toddler’s death, which began at about 2 a.m. Oct. 14, 2012, when Cherokee County Sheriff’s deputies went to Naples’ home in Woodstock in response to a 911 call about an injured child, deputies said.
When the deputies arrived at the home, Johnson was found unresponsive and was transported to the hospital. She was put on life support, but died two days later of a brain injury, arrest warrants for Beck and Naples show.
Lt. Jay Baker, spokesman for the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office said Friday a recently completed report from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation revealed the cause of death for the child was “blunt force trauma to the head” and the manner of her death was homicide.
When interviewed by investigators after the incident, Beck said she had woken up during the night and went to get a glass of water when she found her young daughter lying at the bottom of a staircase, police records reveal.
“Her story has been consistent from the very beginning that she woke up and found the child at the bottom of the stairs and she didn’t do it,” he said.
But Lt. Col. Ron Hunton, field operations commander for the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office, said Friday the GBI’s report has indicated Johnson did not die from falling down a flight of stairs.
“The autopsy results confirmed that this child’s injuries are not consistent with a fall as described by the mother and the boyfriend,” Hunton said, but declined to comment on how Johnson was injured.
Perrotta said Beck is standing by her story.
“They say these injuries are not consistent. Well, that may be true,” Perrotta said. “But I don’t know what the boyfriend did. If this man had injured the child and then threw the child down the stairs, we would have no way of knowing that.”
Perrotta said Naples has a “history of violence,” and Beck is “blaming it all on him.”
Both suspects, however, have been charged with felony murder and cruelty to children in the first degree, court records show.
Hunton said Friday their charge of felony murder, as opposed to murder, was chosen by the District Attorney’s Office.
Wallace said the felony murder is one of two classifications of murder charged in the state of Georgia.
“There are two ways to charge murder in Georgia: malice murder, which involves malice aforethought, basically meaning having the intent to kill, and felony murder, where there is simply the intent to commit a dangerous felony, like child abuse, and the victim dies as a result,” she said.
Wallace said both types of murder charges, though, carry the same potential punishments: life imprisonment with or without parole or “in rare circumstances, which are laid out by statute, death.”
But it is too soon to say what the punishment for Beck or Naples could be if convicted, she said.
“All sentences are imposed by the judge, and it is too early to assess what the sentences might be upon conviction in this case,” Wallace said. “A judge can only sentence a defendant to death if the state seeks the death penalty and a jury recommends it after hearing evidence in a second phase of trial after conviction.”
On top of the new charges she faces in her child’s death, Perrotta said Beck has been working since the October 2012 incident to regain custody of her other young daughter, who was at the Woodstock home when the toddler was found and was taken away by Department of Family and Children Services during the investigation.
Beck’s attempts to get the other daughter back have so far failed, and she is in the custody of her paternal grandparents, Perrotta said.