San Diego

Child Abuse Expert Testifies in Trial of Man Accused in Death of Toddler Jahi Turner

Jahi Turner would've turned 18 years old on Feb. 10

Jurors heard from a pediatrician and child abuse expert Thursday who was concerned that toddler Jahi Turner died as a failure to receive medical care from an injury that could have been accidental or inflicted.

The testimony came in the ongoing murder trial of Tieray Jones, who is accused of killing his two-year-old step-son in 2002, or failing to report a fatal accident. 

Jones told police that Jahi disappeared On April 25, 2002 from a park in Golden Hills, at 28th and Cedar streets, when he walked to a vending machine to buy the toddler something to drink.

Jones said he returned 15 minutes later and Jahi was gone.

The child abuse expert, Dr. Jennifer Davis, read aloud Thursday one of several journal entries written by Jones to Jahi's mother, Tameka Jones, while she was away on duty with the Navy in the days before Jahi's disappearance.

"Today for some reason he hasn’t been moving or really talking. Jahi is starting to act really funny he won’t get up 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."

The prosecution argues this entry is evidence that Jahi suffered a fatal injury while in Jones' care. 

Davis agreed. 

"This is a two-year-old that had played for two straight hours in the park the day prior, as seen by witnesses, and now he won’t move or do anything," Davis testified Thursday. "He’s laying on the floor, not talking, not moving, not doing anything; that’s not normal behavior."

Davis said she was concerned Jahi died as a failure on Jones' part to seek medical care for the child. 

She also noted that financial hardships can be a trigger for child abuse. The journal entry mentioned the family was short on money.

The defense argued that Davis never actually examined Jahi and that her determination that Jahi was abused was based on studies and one journal entry, not on any specifics in this case.

Davis never treated Jahi Turner. 

Jahi’s body was never found, there are no witnesses to the alleged crime, and no confession by the suspect.

Witnesses previously testified they never saw Jones together with the little boy up to, and on, the day Jahi disappeared.

After Jahi's disappearance was reported, a huge search ensued, including a week-long police search of the Miramar Landfill, where authorities took the extreme measure of systematically raking through 5,000 tons of garbage.

On Feb. 15, prosecutors acknowledged there is little "direct" evidence that Tieray Jones is guilty, but said there will be strong "circumstantial" evidence to prove he killed his 2-year-old stepson, probably in the family's apartment, and threw his body into a dumpster.

In 2016, homicide investigators arrested Jones and charged him with the toddler's death.

Jurors were seated nearly a month ago for the trial that could take two months.

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