By Daniel Silliman
The Clayton County District Attorney's Office is re-opening an investigation into the death of an infant, four months after it dismissed the case against the man charged with the murder.
"It is now officially an open homicide investigation in our office," said Todd Naugle, chief assistant district attorney.
Naugle said prosecutors met with Clayton County Police investigators, Georgia Bureau of Investigation medical examiners and Department of Family And Children Services officials on Thursday morning. The district attorney's office was urged to re-open the case of 19-month-old Makayla Denise Valley, who was allegedly chronically abused and died of a ruptured liver in July 2005.
The little girl was wearing a bloody diaper when police found her, and had bruises, abrasions and burns all over her body, according to court records.
She was being watched by her mother's boyfriend, Philanders Lamont Bowie, at the time she died. The College Park man was arrested and, during 23-hours of interviews with police investigators, broke down crying, curled up in a corner of the interviewing room, and confessed he killed the girl.
In the indictment, written up by the district attorney's office and handed down by a county grand jury, Bowie was accused of "repeatedly throwing her into and against a metal framed chair," causing "cruel and excessive pain," and causing her liver to rupture and leak fluid into her stomach.
For two years, Bowie awaited trial on the allegations of murder. The case against him was dismissed four months ago, right before the trial was set to start. Prosecutors said it would be almost impossible to prove he did it, and said it wasn't likely he had, in fact, killed the infant.
The case was dismissed when the defense attorney, Joe Roberto, and two assistant district attorneys, reviewing the evidence in preparation for trial and consulting with a GBI medical examiner, all came to the conclusion the fatal injury occurred 24 to 36 hours before the child died.
That time frame would mean Bowie was not taking care of the girl when she was fatally injured.
Bowie was watching after the girl for the last five hours of her life, but the girl's mother, Candace Jakes, was the primary care-giver. If the fatal injury happened in the last five hours, then the autopsy evidence of murder points at Bowie, though the signs of ongoing abuse would raise questions about the mother. If the fatal injury happened some time before Bowie's stint of baby-sitting, then, as prosecutors said in the February dismissal, the 26-year-old is the least likely suspect in the infant's death.
Thinking the injury occurred 24 to 36 hours before the death, the district attorney's office let Bowie go.
GBI officials are now saying that's wrong.
The prosecuting and defense attorneys misunderstood the evidence and the time frame, according to the GBI.
After the Thursday meeting, the district attorney's office officially agreed it had incorrectly understood the evidence and the explanation of the autopsy report.
The change comes after the little girl's mother, Candace Jakes, made public statements demanding justice,and her cause was picked up by candidates running against District Attorney Jewel Scott in the upcoming election.
Roberto said he recognized the position the district attorney's office is in, but, he said, the prosecutors were right to dismiss the case against Bowie.
"I think the record speaks for itself," he said. "As my mentor [local attorney] John Beal said, 'You can't put the toothpaste back in the tube.'"
He said he did not misunderstand the GBI medical examiner, and he doesn't think the assistant district attorneys did either. He believes there may be an internal dispute within the GBI about the time of the fatal injury and possibly about the cause of the ruptured liver.
"There wasn't a misunderstanding," Roberto said.
At the time of Valley's murder, her mother was also considered a suspect and investigators reportedly criticized her inconsistent and changing stories. She was not charged, though, after Bowie confessed to the crime. Asked about the case two weeks ago, District Attorney Jewel Scott said, "Everybody in that house should have been charged. All of them."
Naugle, speaking for the office Thursday, could not say if the now-open investigation was going to look at other possible suspects.
"There are certainly people who should have know what was going on with that child," Naugle said.
The case against Bowie will be difficult to prove, as prosecutors will probably be called to testify about why they dismissed the case and medical examiners will probably be called to dispute the testimony of medical examiners.
Roberto said he hasn't talked to Bowie since the case was dismissed and the man was released from jail. The last he heard, Bowie was going to leave the area to go to school and "attempt to put his life back together."