Mother of 2-year-old beaten to death in Lakeland arrested, DCF reviewing for ‘potential systemic issues’

Polk County

Police say mother's boyfriend beat toddler to death while she was at work

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) — The mother of a 2-year-old boy who was beaten to death in Polk County earlier this month was taken into custody on Friday, 8 On Your Side confirmed.

Vershundra Day was arrested and charged with one count of negligent child abuse causing great bodily harm and one count of accessory after the fact of capital felony. The 25-year-old was arrested by Lakeland police and booked into the Polk County Jail.

Vershundra Day (Polk County Jail mugshot)

Day is the mother of 2-year-old Jayden Hines. Police say Day’s boyfriend, 30-year-old Alegray Jones, beat the child to death on April 8.

An arrest report says Day was aware her boyfriend hit her son and left the toddler in the man’s care anyway. According to the report, Day told investigators she knew Jones was “really hard” on the victim and “disciplined” him in a different way that she didn’t like. She also said she knew her 2-year-old son was afraid of Jones.

In a later interview, police say Day also admitted that she walked in on Jones punching Jayden before she left for work on April 8.

“When [Day] was confronted about witnessing and hearing [Jones] hurting the victim but still leaving her children with him, she could not provide any valid answer,” the arrest report states.

According to police, Jones got aggravated that night after the toddler urinated on the couch and beat him until he was unconscious. The arrest report says Jones tried to wake the boy up by biting his arm.

Alegray Jones (Polk County Jail mugshot)

Police say Jones did not call 911, but texted Day around 11 p.m. Day didn’t get the message until her work break around midnight, police say, at which time she FaceTimed Jones. The arrest report for Day says she saw her son not responding via FaceTime, left work and drove 7.4 miles home before calling 911 for help.

In the arrest report for Day, police wrote that she “failed to make a reasonable effort to protect” her 2-year-old son Jayden when she left him with Jones.

“[Day] knew [Jones] was striking, throwing and intentionally abusing the victim which caused great bodily harm and injuries that resulted in the victim’s death,” officers wrote. “[Day] saw the injuries on the victim during the video call, knew he was not breathing or responsive, drove approximately 7.4 miles without calling emergency services in attempt to help [Jones] avoid or escape detection, arrest or punishment instead of getting help for the victim.”

Jones was charged earlier this month with aggravated manslaughter. Detectives later upgraded his charge to first-degree murder. He was indicted on the charge by a grand jury Friday morning.

Jayden’s father, Rashawd Hines, says his son’s death was preventable. He told 8 On Your Side Investigator Mahsa Saeidi he warned the Florida Department of Children and Families and the court, expressing safety concerns and noting that Jayden didn’t want to go to his mom’s house.

Jayden and his father Rashawd (Family photo provided to WFLA)

“How many more kids [does] the system has to fail in order for this message to get through to them that things need to change?” the father said. “After I called DCF no one did anything, after me stating to the judge no one did anything.”

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

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.

“I’m not a DCF expert. I don’t have a degree in child care or anything like that. But I do have common sense,” Hines said. “She should’ve been investigated, knowing that she lost custody of her first daughter, she should’ve been investigated.”

8 On Your Side has confirmed DCF was involved with the family prior to 2-year-old Jayden’s death. DCF sent a statement to us Friday saying DCF Secretary Shevaun Harris has ordered a special review to “examine prior interactions with the family and address potential systemic issues within the local system of care.”

“The Department of Children and Families (DCF) opened an investigation to review the details that led to Jayden’s horrific death,” the statement said. “DCF will continue to coordinate with law enforcement to ensure those responsible are held accountable.”

“My message to [DCF Secretary] Harris would be please, please, please, please investigate your department,” Hines said. “Find out who’s responsible for my son’s death and get rid of them.”

>> Follow Mahsa Saeidi on Facebook

>> Follow Mahsa Saeidi on Twitter

>> Send Investigative Reporter Mahsa Saeidi a tip

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending Stories

get the app

News App

Weather App

Don't Miss

More Don't Miss