By Kathy Jefcoats
JONESBORO — A Clayton County Superior Court judge denied bond for a man held since August in the death of his girlfriend's toddler.
Chief Judge Deborah Benefield said Kemra Matthews is not a good candidate for bond on murder and other felonies in the July death of Jadien Harvey, 2.
"There is a risk of flight both voluntarily and involuntarily, and of the defendant to re-offend," said Benefield. "He did offend while he was under probation."
Matthews, 30, is not a U.S. citizen but is a permanent resident from St. John's, Antigua, said defense attorney Ashley Palmer. Immigration officials have placed a hold on Matthews to determine his residency, she said. Matthews moved with his family to Clayton County in 1998.
"His family is here, four brothers, two sisters, his grandmother, father and mother," said Palmer. "He would be living with his sister in Riverdale if he makes bond."
Palmer said Matthews was a reliable employee for more than three years before his arrest and would like to return to work. She said he would not be around children.
"The children who were in the home have all been removed from the home," she said. "There are no kids at his sister's home."
Of the remaining three children who were in the home at the time of Jadien Harvey's death, one was fathered by Matthews, said police. That child was the only one of the four boys in Matthews' care not injured, said police.
Matthews was released on parole in 2009, according to the Georgia Department of Corrections. He served almost three years after violating probation for drug charges. Palmer said he is not on parole or probation. She said the family would be able to post a $100,000 to $150,000 bond and Matthews would abide by any conditions set by Benefield.
Clayton County Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Katie Powers argued against bond.
"If he makes bond, he will have the opportunity to influence witnesses," said Powers. "It's clear by his record that the defendant is unable to follow conditions when they are placed on him."
Palmer said Matthews will fight the charges.
"The children were in the custody of others the day this happened so there is reasonable doubt," she said. "He denies the charges and has cooperated with police. The mother had significant drugs in her system and there is some confusion over the names 'Sam' and 'Kam.'"
Matthews was baby-sitting Ashley Harvey's four children while she worked. The youngest, Kemra Matthews Jr., was 9 months old. Two of the other three, Ashton Capers, 4, and Jadien Harvey, 2, started vomiting while in Matthews' care July 11, Powers said.
Powers said Harvey went to work at 7:45 a.m., leaving her children with Matthews. About 10:30 a.m., he took the four to another apartment for neighbors to baby-sit while he worked part-time for the apartment complex where they all lived, she said. He reportedly told the neighbors, one of whom is also Harvey's cousin, that Ashton had been throwing up and Jadien defecated on himself.
The women told police later that the boys weren't acting like themselves and that Jadien was sleepy and not active.
Matthews picked up the boys about noon and they returned home, said Powers. About 5:30 p.m., Matthews took the boys to the complex leasing office looking for someone to perform CPR on Jadien and to call 911 because he was not breathing and was unresponsive, she said.
Jadien was taken to Southern Regional Medical Center in Riverdale where he was pronounced dead. Powers said an autopsy showed the toddler suffered a skull fracture and 10 separate contusions, among other injuries. The medical examiner ruled the manner of death to be homicide.
Doctors at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta performed a medical exam on Ashton Capers. It showed he suffered elevated liver and pancreatic enzymes, a serosal tear in his small intestines, a bruise on his lower back, a spinal compression fracture, a fracture of his left shin bone that showed no signs of healing and a condition that caused his skeletal muscle fibers to rapidly break down.
The doctors reportedly told police that the injuries occurred after the mother left for work that day. She was not charged.
Ashton Capers reportedly told police that "Sam" hurt him. Police said the child has a speech impediment and that he was referring to Matthews, whose nickname was "Kam."