By the last days of her life, 18-month-old Jayla Haag had suffered so much.
An affidavit filed in Butler County District Court – obtained Thursday by The Eagle and used last month as a legal basis for arresting her mother’s boyfriend and charging him with first-degree murder – makes the suffering brutally clear over 16, single-spaced pages. Among her injuries: a fractured jaw; missing teeth, forcibly removed; severe head injuries; multiple bruises in different stages of healing; malnourishment.
Among the evidence, an Altoids can with a suspicious indentation.
For Jayla, the suffering was so bad that she appeared to have chewed on her cheeks and lower lip “for comfort,” a doctor told an investigator.
Jayla died in March 2012.
Alyssa Haag told the investigator that Justin Edwards, her boyfriend, and others smoked methamphetamine around her daughter. The child tested positive for the drug. He also struck the girl and repeatedly choked her, Haag told an investigator, according to the affidavit.
Edwards’ attorney, David Moses, said in a recent motion that he expects Haag to testify against Edwards. Haag pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and is in prison, with an earliest possible release on March 24, 2015. Moses argued against release of the affidavit, saying Edwards wouldn’t receive a fair trial if the affidavit were disclosed. But Chief Judge David Ricke on Wednesday ordered that the document be released.
Here is what the affidavit says:
On March 22, 2012, Jayla’s maternal grandmother carried her limp body into an El Dorado hospital. Haag said Jayla had fallen down stairs, but hospital staff said the injuries didn’t seem consistent with a fall. Some of the injuries appeared to be “grab marks.” Jayla had bleeding on her brain.
An anonymous caller told an emergency room employee that Edwards and Haag had abused Jayla and that there might be illegal drugs in the girl’s system because of drug use around her, the affidavit says.
The investigation determined that Jennifer Corter was the anonymous caller who lived at the same small apartment where Edwards, Haag and Jayla lived. Corter said that on the morning of March 21, she heard Jayla crying in the couple’s bedroom – “that she heard the crying stop then a short time later she could hear (Jayla) gasping for air.” She thought Jayla was being choked, the affidavit said. When Corter told Haag that Jayla should be taken to the hospital, Haag refused. Instead, Corter told the investigator, Haag was asking whether the child could test positive for meth and searching the Internet on her phone.
Corter said she received a text message with Edwards saying “he wanted to make sure that everyone in the house said that he does not touch” the girl, the affidavit says.
A search of the apartment on March 23 found bloody blankets and clothing, including a small child’s shirt. Haag had told investigators that her daughter was “grinding her teeth out.” During the search, an investigator saw a pair of adjustable pliers on a night stand. A doctor would later tell an investigator that she thought that Jayla’s teeth had been pulled.
Authorities seized two pairs of pliers and five loose teeth, some of which appeared to have the roots still attached.
In interviews, Edwards told a police lieutenant that Haag told him Jayla had fallen down stairs and that several times he told his girlfriend to get the girl medical care, but she refused.
Jayla was transferred to a Wichita hospital, where a doctor told relatives the girl would “have no chance for a normal life because of brain damage.” Her family decided to remove life-support equipment.
Haag told a doctor that her daughter “has been through it long enough.” On March 30, 2012, eight days after being brought to the ER, Jayla was pronounced dead.
Later, Haag told an investigator that she had tried to leave Edwards before but that he wouldn’t let her, taking the car seat, her keys and sometimes her phone.
The night before Jayla arrived at the ER, Edwards’ young daughter was crying and told Haag “that it sounded like daddy was choking” Jayla, the affidavit says, quoting Haag. Haag said she went into a bedroom, where Edwards and Jayla were, and he “got mad” when she told him what his daughter said. Later, when Haag heard Jayla crying, she went into the bedroom and saw Edwards holding her daughter “under her chin and squeezing.” Haag told him to stop, and Jayla cried louder, the affidavit says. Edwards squeezed harder, and the girl stopped crying.
Haag said she had to leave for 10 minutes, to take another child home. When she returned, Jayla was lying across Edwards while he was on the phone. She thought her daughter was asleep, but a short time later, the girl’s “eyes were rolled back and she was jerking,” the affidavit says.
Edwards told her that it was “ok that babies have seizures.”
Haag told an investigator that she and Edwards had argued because he “put an Altoids can” in her daughter’s mouth. Haag said that the girl’s teeth were loose because Edwards “kept shoving the Altoid can in her mouth.”
The girl moaned through the night.
Other adults came to the apartment that night and into the morning. Some said they told Haag that her daughter didn’t look well and should be taken to a hospital.
“Haag said that she knew she waited too long” to get help for her daughter, the affidavit says. The mother had worried that her daughter would test positive for meth “because everyone in the house smoked.”
An investigator asked Haag about a scar on Jayla’s shoulder, and Haag said it had been there several months, that she hadn’t noticed it until it was healed, that Edwards wouldn’t tell her how the injury occurred. She said Edwards insisted on bathing and dressing her daughter.
Edwards told an investigator “that he did not touch” Jayla and “that he loved kids,” the affidavit says.
The affidavit concludes that investigators found “consistencies with someone grabbing her around the neck or lower jaw area.”
The investigator also noted a detail in photographs of the apartment: the end of an Altoids can with a “noticeable semi circular indention.”
Reach Tim Potter at 316-268-6684 or firstname.lastname@example.org.