We've reported on this case several times. It's one of the more notable examples of official incompetence I have seen--especially outside the State of Florida, which is infamous for this kind of boneheaded fumbling. Custodial dad STEVEN S. DIXON has been arrested and charged with the murder of his 3-year-old son. But this murder was completely avoidable, which makes it all the more sickening.
Arrest in 3-year-old boy's death provides little comfort for mother and grandmother
Published: Friday, March 11, 2011, 8:38 PM
By LARA BRENCKLE, The Patriot-News
Jayahn Cox Phoenix, also known as Jayahn Cox Dixon, died on his third birthday.
For months, Jayahn Cox-Phoenix’s mother and grandmother insisted he was being abused by his father. They called Dauphin County Children and Youth, begging for help.
When Jayahn died May 25, 2010, his third birthday, they felt abandoned by the system they said should have protected the boy.
The arrest of the boys’ father, Stephen S. Dixon, in connection with Jayahn’s death provided little comfort for the women Friday.
Though Dixon told police he left the boy unattended in the bathtub of his Swatara Twp. home, in charging Dixon with homicide prosecutors said there is evidence the toddler was beaten.
It’s a situation that Jayahn’s grandmother, Tammy Beltz, and his mother, Jasmine Cox, have repeatedly said could have been prevented if authorities had stepped in.
At the time of Jayahn’s death, Cox and Beltz were trying to get custody of the boy from Dixon and had voiced concerns to county youth authorities about how they feared the boy was being treated.
Jayahn had been in his father’s custody for about two months before his death.
“They’re heartbroken,” the family’s attorney, Ben Andreozzi, said. “Nothing is going to bring the child back.”
The family’s goal now is both seeing justice in the case and seeing that another family doesn’t suffer the same agony, Andreozzi said.
For months, he’s been fighting for access to CYS records detailing the agency’s response to concerns raised by Beltz and Cox.
So far, he said, he’s had limited success.
For now, Andreozzi said he is focused on working with CYS and the Department of Welfare to get the answers the family wants. It is his hope it can be done without having to file a civil law suit, he said.
At a press conference Friday, Dauphin County District Attorney Edward M. Marsico Jr. and Assistant District Attorney Sean McCormack stood behind CYS, saying an internal investigation revealed no missteps.
Though the department is somewhat hampered by confidentiality laws governing such cases, McCormack said unequivocally “this death was not caused by negligence by CYS.”
“They did not miss anything,” McCormack said. “Every death is investigated, by state law. We did, and we do not believe there was any dropping of the ball.”
Michael Race, spokesman for the Department of Welfare, said it does not comment on investigations.
Dauphin County’s spokeswoman, Amy Richards, said no other officials could be reached for comment and deferred to McCormack’s statements.
According to the arrest affidavit, Jayahn, who was sleeping the same bed with Dixon at his father’s apartment in the 3600 block of Chambers Hill Road, wet the bed around 11:30 a.m. on May 21.
When Jayahn and Dixon woke up and discovered the accident, Dixon told police he stripped his son and started filling the bathtub, according to arrest documents.
When the family dog began barking, Dixon, who works at the New Cumberland Army Depot, told police he wrapped Jayahn in a towel, placed him in a room and took the dog outside.
When Dixon returned, the affidavit said, he found Jayahn floating face-down in the tub. Investigators said Dixon first called his girlfriend, who advised him to call for help, which he then did.
The girlfriend, who stayed at the home with her own children, has not been charged.
Jayahn died four days later at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.
The initial cause of death was drowning, but the Dauphin County Coroner did not rule the case a homicide until September, when further forensic investigation was completed.
“This injury was immediately debilitating,” Marsico said. “This injury was not the result of an accidental fall into a bathtub.”
Marsico said the autopsy did not find signs of past abuse.
In the months following the death, authorities said they were meeting with medical investigators and taking time to build a solid case.
Police arrested Dixon at his job Thursday night and, in addition to homicide, charged him with aggravated assault and child endangerment. He was arraigned Friday and placed in Dauphin County prison without bail, as is often the case in homicide cases.
He did not have a lawyer as of late Friday afternoon.
Cathleen Palm, executive director of the Berks County-based Protect our Children Committee, said the arrest is another strong signal the state needs a child welfare ombudsman to act as a back-stop for county CYS officials.
“We ask a lot of the system to protect our children,” Palm said. “We need to step back and ask what we’re doing as a state to support children, and to support the folks who are out there making those decisions.”