Father of toddler beaten to death in Lakeland says he tried to warn DCF, get custody of child

8 On Your Side

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) — 8 On Your Side is working to figure out why 2-year-old Jayden Hines was in a situation that his father says led to his death. The big question is: Was the state’s child welfare agency involved in this case in any way?

Police identified Jayden’s alleged killer as 30-year-old Alegray Jones. He’s facing a first-degree murder charge, a capital offense and the most serious possible charge. If convicted, Jones could face death.

Upgraded documents from the Lakeland Police Department say after beating the toddler, the suspect allowed Jayden to lay unconscious for at least 60 minutes.

“No 2-year-old child, mine [or] whoever’s, should be experiencing something like that and have to die that way so I want the most extreme harsh punishment possible,” Jayden’s father, Rashawd Hines, said.

According to detectives, the suspect has a criminal history and was dating Jayden’s mom.

Several months ago, Mr. Hines says he warned the Florida Department of Children and Families and the 10th Judicial Circuit Court, writing letters to Judge Torea Spohr and calling DCF.

Mr. Hines says he tried to change the existing custody agreement – he says partly due to his ex’s alleged history with the system.

“She did lose custody of her first daughter and that should’ve played a factor into the judge’s decision…all that should’ve been evaluated when making the decision,” said Mr. Hines.

Court records that 8 On Your Side uncovered show Jayden’s mom was in court for a different custody case in Polk County in 2016. We called her listed number and we’re waiting to hear back.

In the meantime, Mr. Hines says immense support from the community is helping him survive.

“I had to get out the other day and go to the gym and coach some of the kids that I used to coach, they bring me comfort,” he said. “Just knowing that I can use this as a motivational tool to better myself and better those around me and help bring awareness.”

Judge Torea Spohr had no comment.

On Monday, we asked warned the Florida Department of Children and Families if the agency had any involvement in this case. Days later, and they still haven’t been able to answer that simple question. They say they are still researching it.

If you have any information on DCF, please contact 8 On Your Side Investigator Mahsa Saeidi at MSaeidi@WFLA.com.

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