Mistrial declared in Fort Worth murder trial

08/18/2014 2:10 PM

08/18/2014 2:12 PM

A mistrial was declared Monday in a murder trial after jurors said they were split down the middle on whether Joshua Oscar Appleton was guilty of killing his 2-year-old son.

Jurors deliberated Friday and Monday morning before the mistrial was declared at 11:52 a.m., according to Tarrant County court records.

Melody McDonald, a spokeswoman for the Tarrant County district attorney’s office, said prosecutors plan to retry Appleton, 33, of Fort Worth.

Appleton’s defense attorney, Okey Akpom, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

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

Ron died June 28, 2012, of chest and abdominal injuries at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth. Medical personnel testified that his injuries were consistent with his being struck with or against a hard object.

Appleton testified Thursday that he did not harm his son in any way.

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

His defense attorneys blamed the boy’s fatal injury on the day care he attended earlier in the day.

Appleton told a detective that his son seemed healthy when he picked the child up from day care.

On Thursday, however, Appleton testified that his son felt warm when he was picked up from day care, but the father dismissed it as the summer heat. A day-care manager was also waiting with Ron when Appleton arrived — something that had never happened before, Appleton testified.

After eating dinner at home, Appleton testified, one of his sons yelled out that Ron had fallen. Appleton testified that he could see his son’s eyes closing and gently shook the boy.

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

Appleton testified that after calling 911, he tried to call the day care multiple times.

“I wanted to find out what happened,” Appleton said.

Prosecutors pointed out that until Thursday’s testimony, Appleton never before mentioned in hours of police questioning that his son felt warm or that the day-care manager was waiting with Ron when the father picked him.They also pointed out to jurors that video from the day care showed Ron walking normally on his way out at 5:51 p.m. the day he died.

Appleton sued GPS Destiny Learning Center, owners of the day-care center, in June, alleging that the management there was negligent in his son’s death.. He is seeking more than $1 million in damages.

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

Day-care officials denied all the allegations in their answer filed with the Tarrant County district clerk in July. Jerry Ewing Jr., an attorney representing the day care in the suit, has declined to comment.

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