ST. GEORGE – Over a week has passed since the story of a Toquerville mother who allegedly starved her 12-year-old son and locked him in a bathroom made headlines across the county and beyond. Many questions surrounding the incident remain unanswered as the case begins its run through 5th District Court and her attorney is formulating ideas on what may have contributed to the situation, one being that the child may be autistic and she was overwhelmed.
See the interviews in video top of this report.
Thirty-six-year-old Toquerville resident Brandy Jaynes made one of her initial appearances in court Tuesday. She was arrested by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in the early morning hours of Jan. 9, according to police records, and subsequently charged with a second-degree felony for child abuse.
Thus far a central question in the case is why Jaynes treated her son in the manner she did, yet appears to have treated his two siblings, a twin sister and a younger sibling, normal by comparison. Questions have also been asked concerning the father’s involvement and what he knew.
The boy’s father is the one who brought him to Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George the evening of Jan. 8. The boy weighed 30 pounds and was the worst case of child malnourishment the doctors there had ever seen, Washington County Sheriff’s Lt. David Crouse said last week.
Investigators ultimately discovered the boy had been living in a bathroom at home where he was allegedly locked in the dark for extended periods of time, Crouse said. The bathroom was reported to be covered in filth and feces. Light switches in the room were also reported to be heavily taped over so they would couldn’t be used, and the door was locked from the outside.
Investigators believe the boy was kept in the bathroom for a year or longer.
As for the boy’s father, he has been cooperating with authorities. His identity has not yet been made public. Whether or not he faces any charges related to the case has yet to be seen.
“The situation is still unfolding,” Washington County Attorney Brock Belnap said. “The investigators from the Sheriff’s Office are working hard on the case.”
Belnap wouldn’t go into details as the investigation is ongoing yet said that many of the questions surrounding the case would most likely be answered as it progresses through the court.
Ed Flint, Jaynes’ attorney, said he is currently waiting to receive and review evidence gathered by investigators, so he has yet to form an an opinion based on evidence. However, he met with Jaynes at the Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility Sunday and has formed a primarily, speculative opinion from what he was told.
From what he heard, Flint said, he rejects the narrative that has spun out of media reports painting the woman as an abusive mother willfully starving her child. Rather, he said, this may be a case of someone who became overwhelmed with caring for a child who might be autistic.
“Everything she described was describing a child with an autism spectrum disorder, right down to the gastrointestinal problems,” Flint said.
“The things she was describing are all things I recognize from having my own adult child with autism spectrum disorder,” he said.
A reason the boy was placed in the bathroom was evidently due to continual bouts of vomiting and diarrhea, Flint said. The boy has been unable to keep down food and likely lost a lot of body weight over time because of it, he said.
Jaynes disputes the accusation that her son was in the bathroom for a year or more, Flint said. Jaynes claims the conversion of the bathroom into a room for the 12-year-old was a more recent event.
She has also stated that the boy’s father lived in the home and knew what was going on, Flint said, and that he was also present when the bathroom was set up for the child.
Initial reports have stated that Jaynes and the boy’s father were separated and he wasn’t living in the house at the time.
“I’ve had a concern about what the father’s participation was in all of this,” Flint said.
As to why Jaynes put the boy in the bathroom, Flint said he believes she may have had a breakdown of some sort while trying to care for a special needs child. From his own experience, he said, he understands the stress that can be placed on a family and parents in caring for an autistic child.
“These are my completely unscientific conclusions,” he said, “but I think those are sound, reasonable inferences to draw from my discussion with her.”
As to why the boy’s siblings apparently never said anything to anyone outside the home about their brother, Flint said that is another question yet to be answered.
While the boy’s twin sister and other sibling have been enrolled in public school, the boy himself was pulled out three years ago, Flint said. At the time the Washington County School District noticed something different about the child and approached Jaynes about getting the boy tested so they could narrow down what the issue could be.
That never happened as the boy was pulled out of school soon after, Flint said, adding that he hopes the boy gets some testing for potential Autism Spectrum Disorder while in state custody.
Ultimately, based on the information he has at the moment, Flint said he hopes the family can be reunited with some state supervision and parental training added for good measure.
Jaynes’ next court appearance is set for Jan. 30. She currently remains incarcerated in the county jail.
In the days following the Toquerville boy’s story going viral, people began asking the Washington County Sheriff’s Office how they could help and where they could donate money and items.
After it was announced last week that the Washington County Children’s Justice Center would be the focal point for those donations, staff have seen donations of various kinds flood into the center nearly every day.
“It’s been great,” said Solinda Larsen, a victims advocate with the Children’s Justice Center.
Those items were sent to the foster family that will be caring for the boy Tuesday.
Many donations came from the community, as well as from across the nation and oversees, Larsen said. Some of those locations have included Idaho, Nebraska, California, Canada and England.
Those wishing to make monetary donations can do so on the center’s website here.
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