WEST MELBOURNE, Fla. (WESH) — Warning: Details in this article are disturbing and graphic and may be upsetting to readers.
An affidavit revealed disturbing new details in the abuse and murder of a Central Florida toddler.
Three-year-old Jameson Nance was found dead on June 11.
Court documents state Joshua Manns, 25, called Erica Dotson, 27, saying that the boy had likely drowned. Dotson told police she rushed home and found her son dead in the bathroom.
Police said when they arrived at the home, Dotson was carrying the child to them.
According to the affidavit, Jameson was significantly bruised and his face was swollen, showing signs of trauma.
The report says Dotson told authorities she had snuggled with the boy before going to work, leaving him in Manns care.
Manns called her to say the boy was not “good” and eventually explained Jameson was dead or likely dead after drowning, the affidavit states.
The report continues to say after Dotson learned Manns had not called 911 for help, she called.
During the call, Dotson eventually gives Manns’ phone number to emergency responders so rescue crews can attempt to walk him through CPR.
However, Manns had fled the area.
Authorities say they found a note allegedly written by Manns that said the boy had suffered a seizure while he was in the tub, adding that he had tried CPR but “nothing worked.”
Officials said they found empty bottles of children’s Tylenol all over the apartment and rags wrapped around bags of water as if they had been once used as cold compresses.
Manns was arrested weeks later in Georgia.
Despite the indications from Dotson and Manns that the boy had drowned, an autopsy instead revealed clear signs of “battered child syndrome” with injuries from weeks ago including a fractured rib, brain swelling and stabs to his head.
Before Jameson’s death, the Florida Department of Children and Families were called “due to a history and concern of possible non-accidental trauma” when the boy broke his leg for a second time.
At the time, it was reported that Jameson tripped and fell off the curb. A medical examiner said a trip or fall as described would not cause a broken bone in a child’s leg.
During this time, Dotson and Manns sent multiple text messages to each other while Dotson was waiting at the hospital.
In the text messages, the report shows Dotson asked Manns to “clean the whole house because CPS will be there in the morning.”
According to the affidavit, the suspects routinely refer to the victim as a “jerk,” and once it was written, “Sorry he’s being such a (vulgarity).”
Eventually, Manns asks why CPS would be called and Dotson replies that spiral fractures are common in child abuse. Manns then tells Dotson to call his day care to get a report of a black eye Jameson had. Once, daycare employees confronted Dotson about injuries to Nance’s face and she explained them by saying the boy had been “attacked by a duck.”
The affidavit reports more texts between the pair after Jameson got out of the hospital, including messages from Dotson complaining about the boy wanting attention and telling Manns he’s right “like always.”
Investigators spoke with a witness who had visited Dotson and asked Nance about a bruise on his neck. The boy reportedly stated, “Josh hit me.” According to the affidavit, when Dotson overheard, she shouted, “Remember what happened last time you lied!”
Investigators with DCF also visited the daycare where Jameson had attended after being observed as having “suspicious injuries.”
The day care said the boy told them Manns had caused a burn to his arm and that he would hit him in the head if he was too loud or woke him up.
According to the affidavit, when the staff told Dotson that her son said Manns would hit him, she would reply by advising he had been telling lies lately.
According to the affidavit, Nance went to the hospital in late March for a broken leg. During this time, the suspects’ text messages convey concern over hospital bills and a fear this will “come up in court.”
“I’m just scared for us all right now,” Dotson wrote.
Around mid-May, it becomes clear from text messages that 3-year-old Nance is in serious pain and suffering.
The affidavit includes a series of text messages where the suspects discuss the victims’ vomiting, swelling and even a chipped tooth. In another exchange, Dotson notes blood and hair on the victim’s pillow.
In another exchange, Dotson notes the victim’s stomach pain and that he’s drenched in sweat. She complains about his temper.
On June 7, just days before the victim is found dead, the suspects begin to discuss swelling of the victim’s head. On June 9, it is noted via text that the victim’s eyes are swollen shut. However, Manns notes the boy is “in a way better mood.”
On the morning of June 11, the same day Nance was found dead, Dotson texted Manns pictures of puppies she intended to give Manns for his birthday, including one that was $1,500.
At 6:15 p.m. Manns texted, “that collie is adorable.” One hour later, Dotson called 911.
On Tuesday, West Melbourne Police Sgt. Graig Erenstoft announced Dotson would also face a first-degree murder charge, calling her “the person who failed Jameson most.”
Erenstoft said there’s evidence that Dotson knew about the injuries and had been researching “head injuries” online days before the boy’s death.
“Knowing this, she continued to leave Jameson with Manns,” he said. “She knew Manns was violent with her son and did nothing to help Jameson.”
Searches Dotson looked up included: “three year old constantly injuring himself,” “knot on head toddler,” “hematoma on scalp,” “children in foster care being abused,” “number of unknown children being abused.”
Dotson also faces charges of aggravated manslaughter of a child and aggravated child abuse.