HUNTINGTON — Three-year-old Jayden Jones was not able to testify to the torture he suffered before his death, but a Cabell judge still sentenced his parents Monday to a lifetime behind bars, with more than 85 years tacked on.
Mariya Jones, 24, and, Aaron Miles, 33, were each given a life sentence without the possibility of parole by Cabell Circuit Judge Paul T. Farrell — meaning they will spend the rest of their lives behind bars after previously being convicted by a jury of murder of a child by a parent.
“This poor child was tortured to death,” Farrell said. “No child should ever have to go through what Jayden did.”
They each were additionally sentenced to serve 85 to 105 additional years for other charges they were convicted of, including second-degree murder, death of a child by parent, child neglect creating a substantial risk of injury, child abuse causing bodily injury and conspiracy.
Jayden Jones was found lifeless and cold with a noticeably distended and hard-to-the-touch stomach as emergency medical service personnel responded to a cardiac arrest call in the 1800 block of 7th Avenue in Huntington July 12, 2016.
Testimony from a state medical examiner showed Jayden had died from sepsis after a hard blow to his back caused two tears in his intestines, which allowed his abdominal cavity to fill with fluid and feces.
He had bruising, scratch marks, cuts, burns from the top of his head to the bottoms of his feet, a broken rib, internal bleeding, deep-tissue bruising and oral injuries. An autopsy found internal hemorrhaging, especially around his temple, due to deep bruising. Whip lashes scarred his back.
Defense attorneys Gina Stanley and Kerry Nessel argued Jayden could have died from disease, not abuse, and that their clients would have had to be doctors to have known Jayden needed emergency medical attention.
The state's expert witness, Dr. Barbara Knox, testified during the trial Jayden had been tortured through a mixture of physical and mental abuse. Besides severe beatings, Jayden was isolated from family and forced to do harsh exercises.
It took jurors five hours in September to decide the parents’ guilt and 30 minutes to determine they would not get mercy.
Miles was confrontational Monday at his sentencing and cursed while making an obscene gesture to the court and making verbal threats to the lead investigating officer, Huntington police detective Chris Sperry. He said there was a bias created against him as a black drug dealer from Detroit.
"If you all want to label me a dope dealing (black man) from Detroit, well there's something else you should know,” he said. “A dope dealing (black man) from Detroit don't kill no kids."
Jones remained silent when she was asked if she would like to say anything. She pointed to a letter she had sent to the court and others sent by family. Jones' family previously detailed her rough upbringing at trial, including years of living in and out of the foster care system. The letters did not persuade Farrell.
“There really are no words that can describe what you did,” he said. “You could have told CPS, you could have not participated in the cover-up of your child's injuries, not participated in the cover-up after he was dead that day, but albeit the addiction to heroin, albeit your fear of Mr. Miles, albeit some plan the two of you hatched; it's just unforgivable.”
Court documents filed in the months since their convictions show the pair separately asked for new trials and for their life-long convictions to be overturned because of prejudice caused by showing graphic photographs of the victim and not holding two separate trials.
Stanley also said prosecutors had taken 'two bites of the apple' by charging Jones with both first-degree murder and murder of a child by a parent. Since the jury acquitted the pair of first-degree murder, a conviction of a second murder charge with a life-long sentence would fall under double jeopardy.
Jones’ attorney had asked for sentences to run at the same time instead of the 80-plus additional years, stating Jones "only has one life to give the state of West Virginia."
The two remain housed at Western Regional Jail, but will soon be moved to a prison facility within the state.
Follow reporter Courtney Hessler at Facebook.com/CHesslerHD and via Twitter @HesslerHD.