Delay in autopsy results pushes hearing back in Joplin child abuse case

Brian O’Grodnick

The Jasper County prosecutor indicated Thursday that she anticipates filing a murder charge on Brian O'Grodnick in the death of 2-year-old Jameson Long once an autopsy report and death certificate are issued.

O'Grodnick, 22, the boyfriend of the child's mother, is charged with four counts of felony child abuse in acts perpetrated on the boy on four dates in April and May before his death June 2 at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. He is not yet charged with causing that death.

O'Grodnick was slated for a preliminary hearing Thursday in Jasper County Circuit Court on the abuse charges. Judge Joe Hensley granted a continuance in response to a joint motion filed by the defense and prosecution in light of the medical examiner not having released an autopsy report as yet and the coroner not having issued a death certificate.

"We anticipate that once we get the death certificate from the coroner, we will be filing a murder charge," Prosecutor Theresa Kenney told the judge.

Hensley asked why she did not file the charge now and dismiss it later if the autopsy results do not support the charge. Kenney said she did not feel comfortable filing a murder charge without autopsy results and a determination of cause of death.

The autopsy was performed by the Jackson County medical examiner. Jasper County Coroner Rob Chappel said the medical examiner is still awaiting toxicology results and the opinions of other experts that he consulted in performing the autopsy. Results are expected sometime in August.

The judge accordingly pushed the preliminary hearing back to Aug. 27 and set a hearing Aug. 13 for the two sides to let the court know if that remains a feasible date.

Joplin police officers were dispatched the morning of May 31 to an apartment in the 1900 block of East Eighth Street regarding an unconscious child who was not breathing. Officers administered lifesaving measures to the child before he was rushed to a local emergency room. He was later transferred to the hospital in Kansas City.

The charges O'Grodnick currently faces are based on video evidence obtained from his cellphone. A probable-cause affidavit does not state how police came to view the videos on his phone, but the document does state that the defendant admitted making the videos and committing the abusive acts they depict.

In one video, O'Grodnick can be seen pinching the corners of the boy's mouth together. In another, he pinches his face while forcing him to say certain things and then slaps him. In a third video, he chokes the child with a hand to his throat while making him beg for water and eventually punches him in the face. On the fourth video, the defendant grabs the boy by his hair, demands to know if he loves him and then shoves him away, according to the affidavit.