The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Crime & Courts

August 6, 2012

Man suspected of throwing baby charged with murder

Charge changed from first-degree assault following baby’s death

NEOSHO, Mo. — The Newton County prosecutor’s office charged Bryant L. Sykes Jr. on Monday with second-degree murder in the death of 18-month-old Ada Bowman, of rural Joplin.

Sykes, the 24-year-old boyfriend of the girl’s mother, Gina L. Salazar, 22, remains in custody at the Newton County Jail on $250,000 bond, with a court appearance set for 9 a.m. today.

The count of first-degree assault that Sykes had been facing since his arrest last week was refiled as second-degree murder as a consequence of the girl’s death early Saturday at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City.

Salazar was brought back from Kansas City on Monday to face felony charges of child endangerment and hindering prosecution. She is being held at the jail on $50,000 bond.

Court documents allege that Sykes admitted injuring the girl at their home at the Bykota Mobile Home Park southeast of Joplin. He reportedly told authorities that he became upset with her and her siblings, and threw her onto a bed, and she bounced off and crashed into a coffee table.

Sykes said the girl started “acting different” after that and her stomach began to swell, according to a probable-cause affidavit. Those injuries are believed to have been suffered about 2 p.m. on July 31.

No call was made for medical assistance until about seven hours later, after the girl fell from a table and struck her head while her mother was at a store, according to the accounts of the boyfriend and the mother.

Newton County Sheriff Ken Copeland said investigators believe Salazar was present in the mobile home park and saw her child during that seven-hour period.

“She knew the child was injured and wasn’t acting right, and had severe swelling to the stomach area,” Copeland said.

The sheriff said Salazar is denying that, but her boyfriend admitted as much. Sykes told investigators that Salazar “knew that the child was not acting the same as she normally did,” according to an affidavit. But Prosecutor Jake Skouby said the charges against the mother are “not based on anything Mr. Sykes says because we don’t intend to use him as a witness against her.”

Skouby said the theory behind Salazar’s charges is that she was aware that her daughter needed medical attention well before any help was sought. He said the extent and severity of the girl’s injuries would have made that clear.

“So, it was a failure to protect, in that sense,” Skouby said.

Doctors reportedly found bleeding on both sides of the girl’s brain, and injuries to her liver, spleen and ribs. An autopsy was conducted Saturday in Kansas City. Newton County Coroner Mark Bridges said both the injuries to the girl’s brain and to her abdomen were substantial enough to have caused her death.

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