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Texts between Navin Jones' parents, testimony from DCFS worker heard at Walker murder trial

Brandon Walker talks with his defense attorney Gary Morris Wednesday morning. Walker is charged with two counts of first-degree murder for the death of his son Navin Jones.
Camryn Cutinello
Brandon Walker, left, talks with his defense attorney Gary Morris Wednesday morning. Walker is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the death of his son, Navin Jones.

Prosecutors rested their case Wednesday during the third day of the murder trial of Brandon Walker, the father of 8-year-old Navin Jones.

Walker, 41, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the death of Navin on March 29, 2022.

After much deliberation between the two sides, jurors were shown text message conversations taken from the phone of Stephanie Jones, Navin’s mother. Jones, 31, pleaded guilty last week to one count of first-degree murder.

The messages were sent to a contact labeled “Babe,” that appeared to refer to Walker. The dates ranged from Sept. 16, 2021 to Feb. 18, 2022.

The conversations include Jones telling Walker she was going to withhold food as a punishment after Navin told two people he was hungry. She also referenced restraining the boy multiple times.

Jones and Walker also discussed Navin’s behavior, with Jones often complaining that she was annoyed with the boy. The two would discuss how to punish him.

Cathy Harvey, an investigator with the Department of Children and Family Services, testified she visited the home a little more than a month before Navin’s death.

She said there were concerns of environmental neglect, bumps and bruises, and human trafficking.

She said a child being forced to go to work fell under the DCFS' definition of human trafficking. Navin’s older brother often went to work with Walker, but it was determined he was not forced to do so.

Harvey said she went to the house on Feb. 15, 2022, but no one answered so she left a business card. She said Walker called her and confirmed both children lived with him and Jones. They made an appointment on Feb. 18, but again no one answered the door.

Harvey then visited the house on Feb. 22. She said Walker, Jones and both boys were present. She saw both boys' bedrooms and spoke to Navin in the older brother’s room.

She said Navin was wearing a hoodie and had a blanket over his lower half. He was eating a bag of popcorn and drinking juice.

Harvey said Navin appeared thin and sickly, a concern she shared with Walker. She said the two discussed Navin’s weight and Walker said he wanted to bring Navin to a doctor, but couldn’t due to guardianship issues.

At the time, the boy's grandmother, Laura Walker, had legal permanent guardianship of both boys.

Harvey said she called Laura Walker, who agreed to sign over temporary guardianship to the parents. She said she received the signed papers the day Navin died.

Harvey said at the time of her visit, she did not feel that Navin’s weight was critical.

But Channing Petrak, a board certified child abuse pediatrician, told jurors she examined Navin in the emergency room after his death, describing the boy as suffering from severe malnutrition.

Petrak said blood work indicated he had been consistently malnourished and dehydrated. She said Navin’s medical records showed he had regular doctor’s visits while in his grandmother’s care.

She said Navin was always on the lower end of the growth curve, but doctor’s records indicated he had been gaining weight.

Navin weighed 43 pounds at his last doctor’s visit in June of 2021. He weighed 30 pounds at the time of his death nine months later. Petrak said Navin should’ve gained around 4 1/2 pounds in that time span.

The jury was shown photos taken in the emergency room of bruising and cuts on Navin’s body. They reflected similar photos shown yesterday.

Petrak testified it was difficult to date the injuries because healing varies. She said malnutrition also slows the healing process. She said there were scars and healing wounds, indicating the injuries could have been inflicted anywhere from days to months prior.

Jury sees video recordings

Video recordings from Brandon Walker’s interview with detectives on March 29 also were shown Wednesday to the jury. Walker said he was at work with Navin’s older brother when Stephanie called him and said Navin was unresponsive.

He said Laura Walker had given the boys back because she was tired. Walker said in the video that Laura had dropped Navin off without warning, a different story than Laura told during her testimony.

She said she had discussed Navin staying with the parents while she visited her mother in Florida.

Walker told detective he often watched movies with Navin and enjoyed spending time with him, but due to work would sometimes go as long as three days without seeing him.

Walker said Navin would get into things overnight. He said he would often have to force Navin to eat, but once he started Navin would eat a lot.

He said he saw Navin on March 27 or 28 and that he seemed fine. He said he was concerned about Navin’s weight, but didn’t want to take him to the doctor because DCFS would be called.

After the state rested its case, the defense called a friend of Walker’s to the stand. He testified that he had worked for Walker and had known him for about 15 years. He said Walker worked often.

The witness said he often saw Navin’s older brother at work with Walker, but had only seen Navin about four to five times.

The defense will continue presenting its case on Thursday.

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