Joseph A. Jackson, 28, Waupaca, is charged with first-degree reckless homicide.
He is accused of holding his 2-year-old stepson face down in a bed until the boy stopped breathing.
On the morning of Sunday, May 25, Waupaca Police Officer Nicole Hahn was dispatched to a home on the 600 block of Elm Street.
When she arrived Hahn found a toddler who had no pulse and was not breathing. His lips were blue and he had vomit on his face.
While a neighbor who had been a first responder was giving the boy rescue breaths, Hahn administered CPR until an ambulance arrived.
Hahn then drove the ambulance while the two paramedics continued working on the small boy.
The paramedics were able to get the boy’s heart beating, but they were unable to get him breathing on his own.
The boy was taken first to Riverside Medical Center in Waupaca, then to St. Vincent’s Hospital in Green Bay where he died that night.
According to the criminal complaint, Hahn returned to the home where she found Jackson collecting his belongings to take to his father’s place. Jackson reportedly grabbed a number of prescription bottles from the bathroom and told Hahn, “See, I’m getting help for my issues and I take them the way I’m supposed to.”
Hahn transported Jackson to the Waupaca police station where she and Detective Sgt. Julie Thobaben questioned him about the incident.
Jackson said the boy had been fine until his older brother woke him up by throwing a ball at him. He said the toddler was screaming, so he took him into the livingroom, then later placed the boy on his mother’s lap.
Jackson told Hahn that the boy was teething, so he gave him some pain medication, the complaint says. He then put the boy back into bed, figuring he would cry himself to sleep.
Jackson said he returned later, found the boy lying face down in the bed and noticed he wasn’t breathing.
During his first interview with police, “The defendant stated that he had a lot on his mind and that he was going to his dad’s, have someone else watch the kids and have a couple of drinks,” the complaint says.
Early on the evening of May 25, Sgt. John Helgeson called Dr. John Taylor with St. Vincent’s Hospital.
Taylor said he did not observe any injuries on the boy’s body, but initial tests showed no sign of brain activity and the boy was on life support, according to the complaint. He died later that night.
On Monday, May 26, the boy’s kidneys were removed for an organ transplant. Detective Sgt. Brian Hoelzel, with the Waupaca Police Department, went to the hospital to observe the surgery. He reported that he did not see any external injuries.
After the surgery, Dr. Matthew Brock showed Hoelzel what appeared to be possible bruising on the boy’s spleen.
On Tuesday, May 27, Hoelzel went to the chief medical examiner’s office in Fond du Lac where the autopsy was to be performed. He also transported four tubes of the boy’s blood that had been drawn while he was at Riverside Medical Center.
The autopsy was unable to determine the cause of death. There were no visible traumatic injuries to the body, no substances detected in the blood samples, and no viruses or pathogens detected in the lungs or spleen.
On Tuesday, Oct. 14, Hoelzel questioned Jackson again.
According to the criminal complaint, Jackson said the boy woke up the morning of May 25 and seemed weak in the legs. He complained that his teeth were hurting, so Jackson said he gave the boy some medication and laid him down in the bed. He said the boy was “screaming in his pillow.” When he checked on him 15 to 20 minutes later, the boy’s face was buried in his pillow and he was not breathing.
Hoelzel then told Jackson that he believed he was telling only 98 percent of the truth and said there was another 2 percent that was still missing.
Jackson nodded, then “folded his arms on the table, put his head down and started to cry.”
According to the criminal complaint, Jackson said he had lain down next to the crying boy and placed his arm over his back. He said he did not use a lot of pressure, but enough to hold him still. He then noticed that the boy was not breathing, his heart was beating quickly and his body had gone limp.
Jackson allegedly then walked out of the room, hoping the boy would be OK and start breathing again. By the time Jackson returned, the boy’s lips had turned blue.
Hoelzel asked Jackson what he thought would have happened if he had helped the boy right away.
Jackson said he did not think of that at the time, the complaint says.
Jackson is being held in custody on a $100,000 cash bond. He faces up to 60 years in prison if convicted.
In June, Jackson was charged with felony child abuse and disorderly conduct in a separate case involving another stepchild.