SAN DIEGO (AP) — Investigators say they have found evidence that suggests a toddler suffered a serious injury two days before his stepfather reported him missing in 2002 from a San Diego playground, according to court documents unsealed Thursday.
In an affidavit supporting the arrest warrant for Tieray Jones, investigators say Jones wrote in a notebook to his Navy wife who was deployed at the time that 2-year-old Jahi Turner was not moving or talking and had a bump on his head.
The journal entry was dated April 23, 2002, two days before Jones called 911 to report the boy was missing.
Jones was arrested in North Carolina last month and has pleaded not guilty to homicide. The child has never been found.
Defense lawyer Alex Ozols said his client is innocent and that the affidavit tells only one side of the story.
"We're going to fight this case to the end and we believe his child is still alive," Ozols said.
Authorities have said new evidence led to a break in the 14-year-old case and the arrest of Jones but have declined to give specifics.
A detective states in the affidavit that it appears Jones either intentionally hurt the toddler because he was peeing in the bed or Jones failed to seek medical help after the boy suffered an accidental injury.
When the boy died, Jones tried to cover it up by fabricating the disappearance story, according to court documents.
A child abuse doctor found the symptoms described in the journal as being consistent with those from either a blunt force abdominal trauma or a serious head injury, according to the affidavit.
Defense lawyer Ozols said the doctor's conclusions are questionable given that there was no body to examine or pictures of the injury, and they are based on a journal entry.
Jones initially denied the boy had suffered any falls when questioned by investigators in 2002, and he later acknowledged one fall but said the boy had no cuts or bumps, according to the court document.
The journal entry contradicts that, according to the affidavit.
"Today for some reason he hasn't been moving or really talking," the journal states. "Jahi is starting to act really funny he won't get off the floor. He's not walking or talking when I tell him to get his cup he just looks at me. I know it's going to take some time. But I don't want him hating me for something I can't control. The bump on his head has gone down I put ice on it. It's gotten a little red."
On March 17, 2015, authorities recorded a call in which Jones, talking to his ex-wife, alluded to what happened to the boy as an accident, according to the court document.
The affidavit also states police found numerous inconsistencies in Jones' story. Witnesses reported seeing him without the boy during the time frame when he told police he had fed the boy, given him a nap and walked him to the park, according to the court document.
Forensic testing found blood on a onesie and an Elmo blanket of Jahi's, according to the affidavit, and a red pajama outfit found in the trunk of Jones' car was identified in 2015 by the toddler's mother to have belonged to her missing son.
Police searched for the boy for weeks, combing parks and a landfill, but turned up no sign of him. Police have said they hope the development will help lead to the boy's remains.