*Warning: Graphic testimony.
FARMINGTON, Utah, Jan. 7, 2016 (Gephardt Daily) — A Second District Court hearing held Thursday for Joshua Schoenenberger, charged with aggravated murder and child abuse in the May 2015 death of 2-year-old James “J.J” Sieger, began with testimony from medical experts.
A doctor and a medical examiner answered questions on the varieties and severity of injuries documented on the child, and the unlikelihood that such damage could be caused by anything other than intentional abuse.
Dr. Todd Cameron Grey, chief medical examiner for the state of Utah, testified that he conducted the May 12 autopsy and certified the toddler’s cause of death as blunt-force trauma injuries to the abdomen. Grey said he certified the death as a homicide.
Dr. Brooks R. Keeshin, who consulted on J.J. Sieger’s treatment at Primary Children’s
Hospital, testified some of the traumatic injuries the toddler endured were equal to those caused by a car accident, but highly unlikely to occur under normal circumstances in a home environment.
J.J.’s injuries included severe bruising and abrasions to his genitals, upper legs, and the side and back of the head. He suffered other traumatic injuries consistent with extreme child abuse.
Grey said J.J.’s head wounds included a pattern of shallow puncture wounds. Grey said the implement that created the pattern was not determined, but he had seen similar pattern in a different case, and determined it was caused by a hairbrush.
The child also showed signs of brain damage consistent with oxygen and blood deprivation, Keeshin said.
Schoenenberger, 34, was the live-in boyfriend of J.J.’s mother, Jasmine Bridgeman, 23. Bridgeman is charged with obstruction of justice in the case. Police have said she withheld information before admitting that her boyfriend beat J.J. following a potty-training incident. Bridgeman waived her Thursday evidence hearing, and will be deposed on Jan. 25.
Schoenenberger and Bridgeman initially told Layton Police officers that J.J. had been left in the tub alone, and was found later, face down and unresponsive, in the water. Medical personnel have determine J.J. had no water in his lungs, and did not drown.
J.J. originally was taken to Layton’s Davis Hospital at 12:49 a.m. May 9, prior to being flown by LifeFlight helicopter to Primary Children’s Hospital.
J.J.’s biological father made the decision to take the child off life support after consulting with doctors.
Det. Ryan Jeppson, the Layton Police Department officer who identified himself as the case manager, talked about his initial interviews with Schoenenberger, and how the suspect’s story continued to evolve.
Jeppson said Schoenenberger reported he and Bridgeman returned from shopping at Walmart, and he put J.J. on the toilet. Schoenenberger said after J.J. failed to use the toilet within about 20 minutes, Schoenenberger removed the child from the toilet, and the two got into the shower to clean up.
Schoenberger said J.J. didn’t like water hitting his face, so Schoenenberger put the toddler into the tub with about an inch of water. Schoenberger said he was upset that J.J. wasn’t listening to him, and he expressed frustration that J.J. wasn’t cooperating with potty training, and had the habit of removing his diaper and rubbing feces on the carpet and drapes. Schoenberger said he was upset that J.J. was ruining his house, Jeppson testified.
The detective reported that Schoenenberger said he had squeezed the toddler’s abdomen for about 10 seconds, and said J.J. released a small amount of feces on him. Schoenberger said he tried to lift J.J. from the shower into the tub, but accidentally dropped him, causing J.J. to hit the side of the tub before landing on the tile floor.
According to Jeppson, Schoeneneberger later said he dropped J.J. on purpose, and later said he stepped on the child’s abdomen after slipping on the wet bathroom floor. Later in the interview, Jeppson said, Schoenenberger said he stepped on J.J’s abdomen on purpose.
Jeppson also reported that while at the Davis County Jail, a distraught Schoenenberger at two points claimed full guilt for J.J.’s injuries, and at another point shouted apologies to Bridgeman, who was in a nearby holding cell.
Judge John S. Morris ruled that there was ample evidence that taking the case to trial was appropriate, and he set the court date for 8:30 a.m. Jan. 22.