Jamie Beck, 23, of Bartow County, and her former boyfriend, Michael Naples, 31, were each charged in September with felony murder and first degree cruelty to children in the 2012 death of Beck’s 17-month-old daughter, according to court records.
Naples and Beck were scheduled to have their individual bond and probable cause hearings Thursday morning, but neither were able to proceed.
Naples entered a Cherokee County Justice Center courtroom Thursday with his attorney, Tony Calhoun, just after 9 a.m. But Calhoun told presiding Blue Ridge Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Ellen McElyea he was unprepared for the hearings and asked to have them postponed.
“I have been in a jury trial all week, and didn’t get out until late yesterday afternoon, and I don’t feel like I’m prepared as I should be,” Calhoun said in the courtroom.
McElyea told Naples if he was indicted prior to a preliminary hearing, he would waive that right. Naples motioned that he understood. Calhoun said he was not asking for a reset date at the time.
Cherokee County District Attorney Shannon Wallace said that once indicted, Naples would not be entitled to a probable cause hearing, but would still have a bond hearing, adding “at this point, he has not waived his right to a probable cause hearing or bond hearing.”
“Once the grand jury has met and returned a true bill in any case, the defendant is no longer entitled to a probable cause hearing, Wallace said Thursday afternoon. “However, he would still be entitled to a bond hearing. The probable cause hearing and bond hearing are two separate matters. We were scheduled to handle both matters against both defendants today.”
Beck, the mother of 17-month-old Kaylee Rayne Johnson, who died of head trauma according to crime lab reports, had her court date reset.
“Ms. Beck’s attorney was tied up in a jury trial in Cobb County today (Thursday) and was not finished as of 1 p.m. this afternoon. Therefore, the court reset the hearing,” Wallace said. “I am unsure whether or not Mr. Naples will take part in the hearing once Ms. Beck’s hearings have been rescheduled.”
Lt. Jay Baker, spokesman for the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, said in September the Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab report revealed the child’s cause of death as “blunt force trauma to the head” and ruled the death a homicide.
The investigation into the toddler’s death began when deputies responded to a report of an injured child at 2 a.m. on Oct. 14, 2012, at Naples’ home in Woodstock, reports showed.
“At the time, the mother advised deputies she got up to get a glass of water and noticed the door to the basement was open,” Baker said at the time. “She then stated she saw her daughter lying on the ground at the bottom of the stairs.”
According to Baker, deputies found Johnson unresponsive when they arrived at Naples’ home, and she died two days later from her injuries.
Lt. Col. Ron Hunton, field operations commander for the Sheriff’s Office, said at the time the investigation indicated Johnson did not die from falling down the stairs, as Naples and Beck had reported.
Beck and Naples were arrested Sept. 13 after an 11-month investigation. After review of the autopsy report received from the GBI, “information was certainly sufficient and probable cause existed to arrest these two individuals,” Hunton said.
Felony murder occurs when a person “causes the death of another human being” while committing another felony at the same time, according to Georgia law.
Hunton said the other felony, in this case, was cruelty to children.
According to Hunton, investigators looked into the suspects’ history as part of the investigation into the toddler’s death, and found that Naples had previously been accused of violence. Naples has a history of being accused of domestic abuse and violence dating back to 2004, according to police reports.
A friend of Naples and his former wife explained he had “kept his wife trapped in an abusive relationship through violence and threats,” in one of the police reports from 2008.
Both suspects remain in custody at the Cherokee County Adult Detention Center, without bond.