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Grand jury recommended West York man be charged in baby son's homicide

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch

At least 12 members of a York County investigating grand jury recommended that a former West York man be charged with homicide in the 2015 death of his 10-month-old son, court documents reveal.

That man, Jeremiah William Monte, appeared Wednesday via prison video-teleconference for his preliminary hearing before District Judge Jennifer Clancy.

His defense attorney, Farley Holt, stipulated to the probable-cause affidavit filed against Monte for that proceeding only, and Clancy then bound over the man's homicide charge to York County Court for trial. The stipulation meant no testimony was necessary.

Monte, 26, now of Jackson Township, remains in York County Prison without bail. His formal county court arraignment is scheduled for Nov. 13.

Monte maintains his innocence, according to Holt, who said he intends to vigorously defend his client in court.

Jeremiah Monte

Kayden's death: Kayden Monte died Aug. 3, 2015, at Hershey Medical Center after being taken off life support. He suffered a skull fracture with internal bleeding to the back of his head, according to records from the York County Office of Children, Youth and Families.

That office conducted its own investigation and in March 2016 determined Kayden died of physical abuse, according to CYF records.

Charging documents filed Wednesday by West York Police Detective David Kahley allege Jeremiah Monte was the only person who had access to Kayden during the time that the baby suffered fatal head injuries.

Kayden's mother took him to York Hospital on July 31, 2015, after he became ill, and he was then flown by medical helicopter to Hershey Medical Center, police said.

The day after Kayden's death, forensic pathologist Dr. Wayne Ross performed an autopsy for the Dauphin County Coroner's Office, which ruled Kayden's death a homicide caused by traumatic brain injury.

Ross' opinion is that Kayden's head "was slammed against a fixed solid surface," and that the child would have begun to show immediate signs of impairment, according to documents.

Grand jury findings: According to the grand jury presentment, signed Sept. 2 by the jury foreperson, Kayden "was a happy and healthy" child living in a home in the first block of South Sumner Street with his parents, then-2-year-old sister, and paternal uncle and grandmother.

The grand jury noted in its presentment that his mother, Heather Martinez McAfee, awoke to Kayden making whining noises between 3 and 3:30 a.m. July 31, 2015, and went to check on him.

McAfee noticed Kayden had vomited and would not wake up, so she placed him in a bassinet in the bedroom she shared with Monte and kept watch over him until morning, according to the presentment, which states Kayden vomited a few more times, was not moving and would not wake up.

Around lunchtime, Kayden was admitted to York Hospital, and three hours later he was flown to Hershey Medical Center, where he died on Aug. 3, 2015, the presentment states.

McAfee told investigators her son was acting normally on July 30, 2015, when she left for work that afternoon, police said.

The autopsy performed by Ross found internal and external bruising to Kayden's scalp and a small fracture on the back right side of his skull, the grand jury presentment states.

Tearing in the brain: Ross also found diffuse axonal injuries (DAI) to Kayden's brain, likely caused by the same "application of force" that caused his skull fracture, according to the presentment.

DAI is shearing or tearing of the brain's connecting nerve fibers, or axons, that happens when the brain is injured as it shifts and rotates inside the skull, according to the Johns Hopkins Medicine website, and it usually causes coma.

Jeremiah Monte

"Dr. Ross opined that the amount of force exerted against (Kayden's) head caused injury deep in his brain and brainstem which led to his death," the presentment states. "A severe amount of force, greater than 40 pounds of force, was applied to (Kayden's) head which fractured his infant skull."

The force required to cause the injuries couldn't have been caused by falling off a couch or out of a crib, or being dropped on the ground, and could not have been caused by a child, according to the presentment.

Kayden's symptoms were consistent with a traumatic brain injury, "including a coma-like sleepiness," and Ross concluded they are consistent with the child being injured around bedtime on July 30, 2015, the presentment states.

Texts deleted: The record of sent and received text messages on Monte's phone prior to Aug. 3, 2015, had been deleted, according to the presentment, which accuses Monte of deleting those messages and states it "may be considered to be circumstantial evidence of his consciousness of guilt."

When West York Police executed a search warrant at the home on Aug. 6, 2015, for the cast-iron bathtub, where police suspect Kayden was injured, Monte put his head down and his hands began to shake, according to the presentment

Monte's reaction can also be considered consciousness of guilt, the presentment states.

Monte told investigators he gave Kayden a bath before bedtime and also said his son was "perfectly fine and breathing; and perfectly healthy" when he went to bed, according to charging documents.

— Reach senior crime reporter Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.

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