An 8-month-old Tacoma boy is dead. His 35-year-old babysitter was sent off to prison Friday as a result.
But what exactly happened to Jayceon Thomas might never be known.
Did Jamie Thompson hit him in the head, causing a fatal injury in April 2014, as Pierce County prosecutors allege?
Or did the boy suffer from some disease or other condition that caused him to die, as Thompson’s defense team contends?
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Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Martin said Friday she just doesn’t know.
“There are competing experts, competing findings,” Martin said. “I don’t think I can resolve what happened.”
Regardless, Thompson took a plea deal to avoid risking a longer prison sentence by going to trial, pleading guilty earlier this month to second-degree manslaughter in Jayceon’s death.
She originally was charged with second-degree murder.
The type of plea agreement allowed her to maintain her innocence, but that likely won’t assuage the resulting felony conviction and sentence of eight years, five months in prison Martin imposed.
Thompson stood by her story Friday.
“I’m sorry baby Jayceon died,” she said through tears at her sentencing hearing. “But I don’t know how he died. I had nothing to do with it.”
Jayceon’s parents, Vanessa Henderson and Iven Thomas, said in court Friday they’re not convinced Thompson killed their son.
But they both said they believe she knows who did.
During his address to the court, Thomas asked Thompson to come clean about what she knows. He left the boy with Thompson for a week while he searched for a new place to live.
“You’re my friend,” he said. “I need that from you.”
Henderson told Martin she hasn’t been the same since her son died and that she wants answers.
“If she didn’t do it, she should say who did,” Henderson said through tears of her own. “I don’t agree with this plea bargain. I want a trial. I want to know what happened.”
Deputy prosecutor Sven Nelson explained the state’s decision to drop the charge to manslaughter by saying the medical evidence was “challenging,” as was the timeline of events compiled by detectives.
What’s clear is the boy died while in Thompson’s custody and that the medical examiner’s office listed the cause as blunt-force trauma to the head, Nelson said.
“It’s a heart-breaking case,” he said in recommending the eight-year, five-month sentence.
Defense attorney Edward DeCosta said medical evidence showed the boy likely died of “natural causes,” possibly from lethal levels of sodium built up in his blood.
“There’s no physical evidence. There are no eyewitnesses. There’s nothing,” DeCosta said of the case against his client. He recommended a sentence of seven years, three months.
Martin went with Nelson, saying Thompson got a break when the charge was reduced.
“It’s just a very sad case,” she said.