ST. GEORGE – Brandy Jaynes, a Toquerville resident accused of locking her son away in a filth-covered bathroom and starving him, was sentenced to serve up to 45 years in prison Monday.
Fifth District Judge Eric Ludlow sentenced Jaynes, 36, to serve three one-to-15 year prison sentences for three second-degree felony counts of intentional child abuse. The prison terms are to be served consecutively, leading to the possibility of over four decades of incarceration.
“I believe Judge Ludlow did justice in this case,” Deputy Washington County Attorney Angie Reddish-Day said outside of the 5th District Courthouse.
Reddish-Day called the child abuse case “incomprehensible” and that in all her years of being an attorney, she’s never seen anything like it.
Jaynes was arrested in January after her then 12-year-old son was taken to Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George by his father. The boy was in a severe state of malnourishment and had been rendered unable to walk due to being locked away in a small, upstairs bathroom that was reportedly covered in trash and feces. The only clean spot on the floor is where the boy laid.
In a victim impact statement, the now 13-year-old boy wrote for the court – he was not present in the courtroom – he said he wasn’t fed normal meals, but rather given one meal of hot dogs every other day.
The treatment by his mother left him feeling confused, frustrated and angry, the boy wrote. He also noted how he missed family outings and holidays due to being locked away, and how he could hear his family celebrating those holidays downstairs.
“I don’t care what happens to her,” the boy wrote of his mother, “but I would really like to see her sometime. She did horrible things to me, but she’s still my mom.”
Ludlow called that part of the letter “heart-wrenching.”
The boy told investigators that he believed he had been kept in a state of confinement for up to seven or eight years, Reddish-Day said, adding that there was evidence to back up that claim.
In the beginning, the boy was locked in a bathroom with no bed and was made to sleep on the floor. At times Jaynes would also poor cold water on top of him, Reddish-Day said. The boy was eventually moved to a small, stand-up shower where boards were used to keep him locked inside. After this he was moved into the bathroom proper, which wasn’t much bigger.
The bathroom door could only be opened from the outside and had an audible alarm connected to it letting others know if the boy had gotten out.
Jaynes also had a baby-monitor and camera in the bathroom that provided a live-feed to a phone and laptop computer. These were elements of the case that put it in a category all its own, Reddish-Day said.
“She had a live-feed camera watching him suffer every day,” she said. “That level of criminal knowledge and criminal intent, it’s hard to put into words. That you could do that to your own child and witness what was happening to your child. She can’t say she didn’t know what was happening because she was watching it happen.”
The feed was still active the day Jaynes was arrested, Reddish-Day said.
Ludlow was shown a photo of the bathroom and noticed notes on the wall. Among the messages on the wall that he read aloud in court were “Touch the camera, I’ll kick your butt with a stick” and “You will act like a human at all times.”
Ludlow asked if Jaynes wrote the messages, and she said they were actually written by her son’s twin sister.
“You did not act like a human at all times,” Ludlow said as he addressed Jaynes.
“No, I did not,” she replied.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” the judge said. “It’s unbelievable.”
While Reddish-Day called Jaynes’ actions “extremely callous” and “evil,” the defense painted Jaynes as a woman who was overwhelmed by having to care for a special needs child and had a mental break of some sort because of it. Defense attorney Edward Flint also suggested an adverse home environment and alleged spousal abuse played parts in Jaynes’ breakdown.
Jaynes took her son out of public school when he was in the second grade in 2012 in order home school him, Flint said. However, Jaynes was far from prepared and failed at the task.
Instead of getting help, Jaynes seemingly locked the boy away without quite understanding what she was doing herself.
While she did not address the court when gven the opportuinty, Jaynes wrote in a letter for the court last week as a part of a pre-sentencing investigation.
“I never meant for this to happen,” Jaynes wrote. “(My son) has had problems from the day he was born, problems that got worse and worse, and I screwed up by not getting help. I hurt him by not getting help. And for this I am very sorry.”
The worst time for the boy was likely when Jaynes turned to heroin and methamphetamine use in the four months prior to her arrest, Flint said. It wasn’t until she had been in jail for a while and off the drugs that she began to understand the gravity of what she had done to her son, he said.
“Yes, I am guilty and I am accountable for my actions,” Jaynes wrote, “I should have gotten help and by not doing so I hurt someone that I love with all my heart heart.”
Jaynes also wrote that since the beginning of the case she had been portrayed as being “the worst of the worst.” The media and others have “said some really horrible things that are not true but paints a picture of me that I’m the most horrible person on Earth. I never meant for this to happen,” she wrote.
Ludlow asked why Jaynes treated her son the way she did while treating his twin sister and a younger sibling relatively normal by comparison. Beyond what had already been stated in court and throughout the case to this point, neither Flint nor Reddish-Day had an answer.
Jaynes may not quite know the answer herself, Flint said.
“None of us understand how it got to this point,” Flint said afterward. “She doesn’t understand and she’s the perpetrator.”
Flint said a detail of the case he found “baffling” was that no one seemed to catch on to what was going on. Where was the boy’s father and other family members?
Jaynes had kept her husband and her own mother away from the boy and routinely made excuses why he wouldn’t come downstairs, Reddish-Day said. She also physically blocked attempts to go upstairs and see the boy.
Reddish-Day called Jaynes a “master manipulator” for being able to keep other family members away, as well as seemingly brainwashing the other children into thinking their brother deserved the treatment he recieved.
Eventually Russell Jaynes, the boy’s father, took his son from the home, cleaned him up, and then took him to Dixie Regional Medical Center for care.
For not acting sooner, Russell Jaynes has been charged with a lesser felony of child abuse for neglect. He has nonetheless been cooperative with authorities concerning the case.
Ludlow told Flint his pointing out the inaction of others looked like he was trying to deflect blame away from Jaynes. Flint said he was not, adding that whatever he may say could look that way because there was no way for the defense to “put a shine on this case.”
While the defense maintained that Jaynes’ son has special needs in some fashion, Reddish-Day disputed that claim, saying there’s no evidence the boy had any sort of disability prior to the abuse.
Jaynes’ claims of being overwhelmed by caring for an allegedly special needs child are false and an attempt to limit her responsibility in the case, Reddish-Day said.
“Frankly, I don’t understand the motive for why this child was treated this way he was,” Ludlow said prior to sentencing Jaynes. “This was a deplorable and appalling state of affairs … I’ve been doing this for 30 years (and) I’ve never seen anything like this.”
While initially underweight, stunted in growth and unable to walk due to his captivity, the boy has since rebounded and continues to recover, Reddish-Day said. In the last eight months the boy has grown in height and weight and is able to run and ride a bike – albeit aided by ankle braces.
There are potentially permanent impacts from the abuse on the boy’s mind and body, however. He may never walk in a normal way again, and it is believed he may have developed post-traumatic stress disordered, Reddish-Day said.
The Jaynes other children are also in foster care.
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