By: Kristyn Blackwood
Last month on July 25 in Dallas, Texas a 10-year-old boy was rushed to Methodist Charlton Medical Center after his parents found him passed out and called 911. Shortly after arriving at the hospital, Jonathan James passed away. James’s death had been originally classified as an unexplained death until the medical examiner ruled it a homicide on Thursday, August 25. Since at the time of his death his home had no central air-conditioning and was only cooled by window units and fans, police believed Jonathan’s death was heat-related.
Jonathan’s father, Michael James, and stepmother, Tina Alberson, both 42, were arrested on August 25. They are accused of denying Jonathan water for a over five days as his punishment for wetting his bed. Jonathan had a twin brother, Joseph, who knew what was going on and desperately wanted to help him out and sneak him some water. Joseph said, “I wish I had snuck him some water. I wanted to do something, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t do nothing because I would get in trouble.” Joseph also said that the day Jonathan died he had peanut butter stuck in his throat, but his parents would not let him drink water.
Many police documents said that a child at Jonathan’s age would exhibit progressive symptoms of dehydration, including complaining of thirst, progressively becoming lethargic, appearing dry, mental status changes, having decreased urine output and eventually experience cardiac/shock arrest. “He got to the point where he couldn’t function,” Deputy Chief Craig Miller said. “He couldn’t get up off the ground.” Neighbor Cheryl Norwood said, “That’s inconceivable to me. I can’t understand why they wouldn’t give him any water.” Joseph told the Dallas Morning News that his parents placed Jonathan in a room without air conditioning and told him to stand by the window. Joseph said he was just so afraid to help Jonathan because he was afraid he would face similar punishment from his parents.
When Michael James talked to authorities the day Jonathan was taken to the hospital, he said his son was just sick from the heat. James and Alberson have been charged with injury to a child, a first-degree felony. If they are found guilty and convicted, they will end up facing up to 99 years in prison.