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Mother testifies in Jefferson Co. trial of man accused in her baby's death

March 19, 2009|By ERIN JULIUS

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. -- "My baby was so innocent," Kathy James said as she testified Thursday against a man who once called her baby his son, but now is charged in connection with the boy's death.

James' son, Colton Lee James, was taken to Jefferson Memorial Hospital with a brain injury Dec. 6, 2007. He died Dec. 10, 2007, at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Michael Todd Cox, 41, who faces a charge of child abuse by a custodian resulting in death, is on trial in Jefferson County in connection with Colton's death.

Kathy James, who was known as Kathy Whitmore at the time of her son's death, and her mother were the state's first witnesses Thursday morning.

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Judy James, who was called first, discussed the day Colton was injured and the day he died.

She also talked about Colton's funeral, and said while Cox sang two songs during the service, including "Amazing Grace," he never shed a tear and "sang them like he was unaffected."

Judy James also said, however, that Cox supported her daughter during her pregnancy and was attentive to both Colton and Dalton.

Judy James talked about the day Colton died.

"Kathy was given the option of letting Colton live in a nursing home or holding him in her arms and letting him die," Judy James testified.

The day Colton was taken off life support -- Dec. 10, 2007 -- was the only day Cox visited the hospital.

Later that day, after Cox left, Kathy James held Colton in her arms with a chaplain by her side as the baby was taken off life support, Judy James said.

Kathy James began sobbing a few moments into her testimony, and the court recessed several times to allow her to compose herself.

James met Cox in June 2007, when she already was pregnant with Colton, but separated from her then-husband, Allen Whitmore.

Cox moved in with her at her grandmother's Kabletown Road home outside Charles Town soon after they met, James testified.

On the morning of Dec. 6, 2007, James left Colton and his older brother, Dalton, with Cox while she went shopping at the Charles Town Wal-Mart. She was gone for more than an hour and a half, and Cox was alone with the children, she testified.

She bought about $200 in groceries because she thought Cox would be staying with her, the children and her grandmother over the weekend.

By the time she returned to the house around 12:15 p.m., Cox had dressed the children and was waiting at the door, James testified. Cox told her he had to go to his father's, where he was needed to help slaughter hogs, she testified.

"He had promised me before I left that he was staying," and she had not planned to leave the house that weekend because an icestorm was on its way, James testified.

As other witnesses already had testified, James drove Cox to his father's house in Germantown, Md., with a brief stop in Frederick, Md. Both of her children were in the vehicle. Colton woke up on the drive down and cried a little, but only fussed once on the drive back, James testified.

When she returned home, James set Colton down in the living room in his car seat. She left Colton in the care of her grandmother, took Colton's brother, Dalton, and went to a friend's house for a few hours.

As soon as she returned home, Fowler told her there was something wrong with Colton.

"I said, 'Grandma, what happened to my baby?' And I called 911," James testified Thursday. James covered her face with her hands as she talked about riding with Colton to the hospital in an ambulance.

Prosecutors played the 911 tape for jurors Thursday. James could be heard saying, "He just doesn't look right," on the tape.

She called Cox from the hospital.

"I asked him what the hell he did to my son," James testified. Cox said he didn't know what she was talking about, and he could never hurt a child, she testified.

Prosecutors, however, tried to paint a different picture of Cox.

Thursday afternoon, Melinda Moser was called to the stand. In 1992, Moser was dating Cox. She had a 5-year-old son and an 11-month-old daughter. On Nov. 8, 1993, Cox pleaded guilty to manslaughter in connection with the Jan. 3, 1993, death of Moser's daughter, Amber.

A former Montgomery County Police Department homicide detective who investigated Amber's case also testified Thursday and read into the record the statement Cox gave police.

Moser left her children alone with Cox while she went to get food the morning Amber was injured. Amber started crying, "I shook her back and forth several times telling her to be quiet," the detective said, reading from Cox's statement. He lost his grip on Amber and she fell to the floor. There was a "loud, thumping sound."

Cox told police he then threw Amber back in the crib.

"I did not go into that room with the intention of hurting Amber ... I just lost my temper," Cox said in the statement.

Defense attorney James Kratovil did not ask either woman whether they had seen Cox harm Colton the day the baby was taken to the hospital.

"It's obvious that no one saw Michael Cox do anything," Kratovil said Thursday after court was adjourned.

Cox's trial is expected to resume Tuesday.

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