October 1, 2014

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3-year-old’s outlook bleak, lawyer for mother’s boyfriend says

AMHERST — A 3-year-old boy remained in critical condition Monday in a Cleveland hospital and the attorney for the boyfriend of the Jesse Crum Jr.’s mother said the prognosis isn’t good.

“I don’t think he’s going to make it,” said Donald Tittle, who serves as Peter Jones’ lawyer.

Jones, 22, had been scheduled to be sentenced Monday on two counts of endangering children for a Jan. 5, 2009, incident in which Jesse was scalded by hot bath water. His sentencing has been delayed until the end of the month.

Tittle said Jesse’s latest injuries, which Amherst police have said include cranial bleeding and bruises on his body, are accidental. The boy woke up early one morning last week and appeared to have been climbing on a set of bookshelves in a little-used bedroom of Jones’ parents Forest Hill Drive home, he said.

The family didn’t even learn of Jesse’s injuries until more than a day after they happened, Tittle said.

“The kid was walking, he went to a park, he went to his grandmother’s house,” he said. “Everything seemed fine and all of a sudden he got really sick.”

The family believes that Jesse didn’t want to tell them about what happened with the bookcase because he was afraid, Tittle said, but when the family found things on the floor and a bookshelf partially tilted over, the boy told them what happened.

Jesse was flown to Cleveland MetroHealth Medical Center on Friday and Lorain County Children Services alerted Amherst police to his injuries.

On Monday, Children Services took custody of Jesse’s half-brother, whose father is Jones and shares the same mother, Alyson Sweany, both of whom could not be reached for comment.

Children Services spokeswoman Patti-Jo Burtnett said the 9-month-old boy has been placed with a foster family while the investigation into what happened to Jesse last week is ongoing.

County Prosecutor Dennis Will said the circumstances of Jesse’s current injuries in addition to last year’s scalding led to the decision to seek custody of the infant.

“We want to err on the side of caution and protect the child,” he said.

But Tittle said the county is overreacting to an accident.

“There’s no reason for this until there’s been some determination that something was done wrong,” he said.

Burtnett said Children Services conducted an investigation after the scalding and determined that Jesse was neglected because of a lack of supervision.

Sweany, she said, was told not to allow Jones to be alone with Jesse. Burtnett also said Sweany complied with all of Children Services recommendations and received positive assessments from Help Me Grow and a mental health organization that also reviewed her situation.

Children Services closed its case in August and at the time, Burtnett said, Sweany had her own apartment. She said she doesn’t know when they moved into Jones’ parents’ home.

Tittle said his client never meant to hurt Jesse in last year’s incident, which took place at the home of one of Sweany’s relatives when Jones was unexpectedly asked to baby-sit the boy.

He said Jesse threw up on himself and Jones put the then-2-year-old in the bathtub and turned on the water. Jones then went to turn off the dishwasher and answered the door briefly before returning to find Jesse injured.
Court documents filed by prosecutors in the case showed that Jesse wasn’t taken to the hospital until several hours later when Sweany returned home.

Part of the problem, Tittle said, was that the hot water heater in the house was turned up to 170 degrees, far too hot for a child. But he said his client didn’t know that at the time.

No one has been charged in connection with Jesse’s current injuries, but Jones’ parents, Dallas and Theresa Jones, were charged with possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia after police executed a search warrant at the their home Friday.

Police said they found marijuana plants being grown in the house.

Jesse Crum Sr. could not be reached for comment Monday.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.