August 15, 2014

Jury still deliberating in case of father accused of killing 2-year-old

Joshua Oscar Appleton, 33, of Fort Worth, is on trial in the death of his son Ron Appleton in June 2012.

A Tarrant County jury ended deliberations Friday without reaching a verdict in the murder trial of a man accused of killing his 2-year-old son two years ago.

The jury was instructed to return Monday to continue deliberating the case of Joshua Oscar Appleton, 33, of Fort Worth.

Prosecutors say Appleton was the only person who had an opportunity to strike his son with such force that the child died from internal bleeding.

He denies harming his child. His defense attorneys argued that the child’s injury probably occurred at the Fort Worth daycare where he spent most of his final waking hours.

Thursday, the jury heard from Appleton, who has been in jail since his arrest in August 2012 and who testified that he has gone nearly blind from glaucoma since his incarceration.

His son, Ron Appleton, died about 10 p.m. June 28, 2012, of chest and abdominal injuries at Cook Children’s Medical Center.

Medical personnel testified that the child’s injuries were consistent with his being struck with or against a hard object.

Appleton testified Thursday that he did not kick, drop, stomp, hit or harm his son in any way.

Appleton told a detective who interrogated him after the child’s death that his son seemed healthy when he picked him up at his daycare. He testified that he and his three sons stopped to get food at a McDonald’s and then went home to eat.

The family went inside, and Appleton spread the food out on the small table where the children ate their dinners, Appleton testified under questioning from attorney Jim Johnson. Then one of the boys yelled out to his father that Ron had fallen, Appleton said.

“I could see his eyes closing,” Appleton said. “That’s when I gently shook him.”

“He wouldn’t stand on his feet,” Appleton testified. “I told him ‘Ron, look at me. It’s your daddy. Look at me.’ ”

Appleton said he cradled the boy in his arms and wet his face with some water and then he opened his eyes. Ron had soiled his diaper and then soiled the bed. Appleton said he called 911, his wife and the daycare, all in rapid succession. It was 6:26 p.m.

The 911 operator was the only one who answered the phone.

“I called the daycare multiple times,” Appleton said. “I wanted to find out what happened.”

Appleton testified that when he picked his children up from the daycare, Ron felt warm, but said that he chalked it up to Texas’ summer heat. One of the daycare’s managers was waiting with Ron when Appleton came to retrieve his children, something that had never happened before, he said.

Tarrant County prosecutor Dale Smith, who is working with prosecutor Kelly Meador, asked Appleton why he never mentioned that Ron felt hot or that the daycare manager was waiting with Ron during a police interrogation that lasted more than six hours.

Appleton testified that no one ever asked him that directly.

Smith said Appleton stated that Ron seemed fine, that he ate, that video from the daycare showed Ron walking normally on his way out of the daycare at 5:51 p.m. on the day that he died. Smith said Appleton’s testimony on Thursday marked the first time Appleton had said that Ron was hot or that a daycare supervisor was standing with the child just before he left the establishment.

“You were the only adult with him from the time you picked him up until the time the fire department came on June 28, 2012?” Smith asked.

Yes, Appleton said.

“Ron Joshua Appleton was a very quiet child who I loved,” the father testified. “I did everything I could to protect him.”

Appleton has sued GPS Destiny Learning Center, owners of the daycare center. The suit, filed in June 2014, seeks more than $1 million in damages and claims daycare management was negligent in Ron’s death.

Appleton’s suit says that Ron complained of stomach pains and was hot, dizzy and sweating when he left the daycare. Appleton also says in his suit that video footage of Ron’s activities at the daycare is missing.

Daycare officials denied all the allegations in its answer filed with the Tarrant County district clerk in July. Jerry Ewing Jr., an attorney representing the daycare in the suit, declined to comment.

If he is convicted, Appleton could be sentenced to 99 years or life in prison.

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