Fort Worth father testifies that 2-year-old's death in a tub was accidental

Posted Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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FORT WORTH -- A father accused of killing his 2-year-old daughter by holding her down in a bathtub filled with scalding water testified Wednesday that her death was a horrible accident.

After she died, Charles Bellamy put her body in the trunk of a car and then drove to pick up the child's mother from work, prosecutors say.

Bellamy, 27, is charged with murder in the death of Jaz'mine Howard on March 15, 2011. Bellamy testified that he had just finished a liter of vodka when his daughter urinated on herself. He took her to the bathroom and took off her clothes, and then ran some water and placed her in the tub. The alcohol made him nauseous, so he lay down and went to sleep, he said.

"Then I jumped up and remembered that I had put Jaz'mine in the bathtub," Bellamy testified.

She was lying in the tub, Bellamy said. He said he tried to revive her and then held her and cried for 20 minutes when that did not work.

"Jaz'mine died in my arms, sir," Bellamy told prosecutor Dale Smith. "I've never seen anyone die before."

Smith suggested that when Jaz'mine soiled herself, it made Bellamy angry, but Bellamy denied that and said she had soiled herself many times and he never struck her.

"I caused the accident by not being responsible," Bellamy said.

Tarrant County Medical Examiner Nizam Peerwani testified that the burn pattern on the girl's legs indicated that she struggled to escape from the water, estimated at 120 degrees, and to escape from whatever was pinning part of her body below the water line.

"These immersion burns are very painful," Peewani said. "As the heat continues, the skin begins to peel off. The skin shows damage from immersion burns within a few minutes, and within a few hours the child will go into shock and die."

The chance of surviving that type of burn injury is high if medical attention is received quickly, Peerwani said.

The child's mother, Joy Howard, 21, testified that the last time she saw her alive was just before leaving for work.

"Of course, Jaz'mine didn't want me to go," Howard said. "I told her, 'Mommy will see you when I get off.'"

In an interview a few days after the child died, Howard said she and Bellamy had lived together for only a few weeks before Jaz'mine was born. In March 2011, she had just moved to Fort Worth with Jaz'mine, and although she and Bellamy were no longer a couple, she and the child were living with him, his uncle and grandmother.

When Bellamy arrived to pick her up at work, Howard testified, Jaz'mine was not in the car, and he would not say where she was.

"He told me there had been an accident, and I started to panic," Howard said. "He said he had been drinking and had fallen asleep, and when he woke up he found her in the bathtub drowned."

Howard said she kept asking where the child was and Bellamy told her that he had taken her to Arlington Memorial Hospital, but that because he had been drinking, he did not get out of the car.

Howard said she could not smell any alcohol.

"He was talking about suicide," Howard said. "Pulling up to his mom's house, he is apologizing, saying he's sorry. Then he told me that Jaz'mine was in the trunk of my car.

"Charles said, 'She's dead,' and I was yelling, 'Call 911! Jaz'mine's in my trunk!'"

Howard said Bellamy's mother and brother were performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Jaz'mine while Bellamy went into the house. When he came back out, Bellamy had his mother's keys and drove off in her car as paramedics arrived, Howard said.

When she next saw her daughter, Jaz'mine was naked and wrapped in a sheet on the ground, Howard testified. She told the jury that she believed her daughter had drowned until she saw the burns.

"I dropped," Howard said. "It made me sick."

Bellamy was a fugitive for a week. He turned himself in on March 22, the day of Jaz'mine's funeral, Howard said.

The trial is scheduled to resume this morning in state District Judge Louis Sturns' court. Closing arguments are expected to begin.

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Mitch Mitchell, 817-390-7752

Twitter: @mitchmitchel3

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