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Peoria County coroner reviewing 2007 death of murder suspect’s child

Peoria County Coroner Jamie Harwood speaks at the health department's weekly COVID-19 briefing, Nov. 5, 2020.
Tim Shelley
WCBU file
Peoria County Coroner Jamie Harwood speaks at the health department's weekly COVID-19 briefing in 2020.

Peoria County Coroner Jamie Harwood confirmed Friday he is reopening a 2007 death investigation of a child whose mother now faces murder charges in a separate case.

Stephanie Jones’ son, Nigel Keith Ragon, was just shy of 3 months old at the time of his death. The boy’s father found the infant unresponsive and not breathing when he returned to their Washburn residence; Jones was home at the time.

The boy died a short time later at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center. An autopsy identified the cause of death as “SIDS” — sudden infant death syndrome — and the death was ruled as “natural.” Harwood said “SIDS” is no longer a term used because modern investigative methods can determine a more accurate cause.

Jones, 35, and her husband, Brandon Walker, 40, were formally charged Thursday with first-degree murder in the death of their 8-year-old son, Navin Jones. They are both being held on $1 million bonds.

Navin Jones died Tuesday as a result of what Harwood called one of the worst cases of abuse he’s ever seen. Harwood said Navin’s death prompted him to take another look at Nigel’s to determine if it can be ruled as natural, accidental, or a homicide.

“With a cause of death as SIDS, and 'natural' as the manner of death, and in light of the current circumstances with the half-brother, I wanted to make certain that this case received the justice it deserves,” Harwood told WCBU.

The coroner said he will work with the county’s forensic pathologist and the Illinois State Police to see if foul play led to Nigel’s death, or if it was an accident. He said he doesn’t know how long the process will take.

Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.