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Trial of Navin Jones' father continues with testimony from grandmother, medical experts

The murder trial of 41-year-old Brandon Walker of Peoria, seated in center with his back to the camera, entered its second day on Tuesday. He's charged with the death of his 8-year-old son, Navin Jones, who  weighed just 30 pounds when he died.
Andy Kravetz
WMBD; pool photo
The murder trial of 41-year-old Brandon Walker of Peoria, seated in center with his back to the camera, entered its second day on Tuesday. He's charged with the death of his 8-year-old son, Navin Jones, who weighed just 30 pounds when he died.

The trial of the father of 8-year-old Navin Jones continued Tuesday with witness testimony from first responders, medical experts and Navin’s grandmother.

Navin died March 29, 2022 after being found unresponsive in his parents' Peoria home. Paramedics and doctors took lifesaving measures, but he was declared dead shortly after at the hospital.

He was severely malnourished at the time of his death.

The prosecution said in opening statements that the evidence would show that the boy's father, Brandon Walker, 41, withheld food and medical care from Navin. The defense said it would show that Navin’s mother, Stephanie Jones, was the guilty party.

Stephanie Jones, 36, pleaded guiltyto first-degree murder on Thursday.

On Tuesday, the Peoria County jury heard testimony from a paramedic and three police officers who were involved in the case. They detailed the lifesaving measures taken after they responded to the call, including administering CPR and medication to stimulate the child's heart.

Police photos showed the house Walker lived in with Stephanie Jones, Navin and Navin’s older brother. Photos showed a full fridge and pantry, the bathtub Navin was found in and various rooms in the house.

Photos of Navin’s brother's room showed toys thrown throughout, a TV with a gaming system and a fully-made bed.

Navin’s room had a bed, a dresser and one toy. The bed did not have sheets or blankets at the time police arrived on the scene. The closet door was locked, but upon opening it police found it smelled of urine and feces.

Detective Roberto Vasquez said it was like nothing he’d ever smelled before. He said there was bedding on the basement stairs that had the same smell.

The door did not have a doorknob, and instead had a rope where the doorknob should be. Prosecutors allege the rope was used to tie the bedroom shut.

A note written by Stephanie Jones was taped to the door. It instructed Navin’s brother to not give Navin any food or water, or to let him out overnight.

Photos of Navin taken at the hospital also were shown. The photos showed Navin was very thin at the time of death, to the point where his bones were visible through his skin.

Amanda Youmans is a forensic pathologist who performed Navin’s autopsy.

She testified that Navin was emaciated and had lost the fat layer under his skin. He weighed just 30 pounds and showed various signs of chronic malnutrition. She said his muscles had begun to atrophy, and his mobility would’ve been limited before his death.

She said he had bruises and other wounds, including bruising around the wrists consistent with someone being restrained. Youmans said it was nearly impossible to determine when the injuries took place, but the bruising on Navin’s body was caused by blunt force trauma.

Youmans ruled his death as failure to thrive due to malnutrition. She said starvation leads to cardiac arrest, which is what happened to Navin. It was consistent with months of starvation that could have been continuous or interrupted, she said.

Navin had no history of a significant underlying medical condition.

Laura Walker, Navin’s paternal grandmother, told jurors she had custody of Navin from when he was around 5 months old to July 2021. She had left to visit her mother, whose health was failing, and had left Navin and his older brother in the care of their parents.

When she returned, the parents did not give the brothers back. She said she was concerned because they had to return to school.

Laura Walker said she attempted to contact the parents times and then drove to their home. She and the boys' mother had an argument during which she called the Peoria Police Department.

When police arrived, Walker showed them the court order that said she had legal guardianship of the boys. They said it was a civil matter and there was nothing they could do. Laura later reported the boys had been kidnapped to the Washington Police Department.

The brothers were still not returned to her. She said she filed a report with the Department of Children and Family Services as well, but the agency never responded.

Brandon Walker’s defense attorney, Gary Morris, said Walker worked often and that Stephanie was in charge of caring for Navin. Co-workers testified Walker often worked seven days a week and sometimes worked 12 hours a day.

Walker often brought Navin’s older brother to work with him, but one co-worker testified he’d only seen Navin a few times.

Friends of Walker’s described Navin as a shy, but well-behaved child. One friend said he was always a little thin, but that he was unrecognizable in the photos taken after his death.

One friend of Walker’s said he had expressed concern about Navin’s weight, but said Walker told him that Navin had been seeing a doctor.

Morris said Walker attempted to get custody of Navin so he could get him medical attention and enroll him in school.

Two doctors who had treated Navin’s older brother testified about a hand injury he received stitches for. Prosecutors said they wanted to establish that Navin’s brother had received medical attention, despite the parents not having custody of either boy.

Laura Walker said a DCFS investigator had contacted her a month before Navin’s death asking her to rescind guardianship. She said the investigator told her Navin was thin, but did not give further details on his condition.

She said she received multiple calls from DCFS before she sent the paperwork rescinding guardianship. Laura was still Navin’s legal guardian when he died.

The trial continues Wednesday morning.

Camryn Cutinello is a reporter and digital content director at WCBU. You can reach Camryn at cncutin@illinoisstate.edu.