Doctor: Abused 2-year-old boy suffered greatly before his death, could have been saved

24-year-old woman charged in son's death didn't seek medical help, officials say

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - The 2-year-old Orlando boy who died in July was covered in bruises and medical examiners believe he was possibly tortured before his death, according to the arrest affidavit for Jayce Martin's 24-year-old mother, who has been charged with manslaughter in his death.

Orlando police and fire responded to 814 Bethune Drive on July 18, where Jayce was pronounced dead. Authorities spoke to the suspect Victoria Toth, who had called 911, and her live-in boyfriend, Johnathan Pursglove, who was performing CPR on the boy when medical crews arrived.

Toth bonded out of jail at 2:16am Saturay, according to the Orange County jail. 

Toth worked at Rainforest Cafe in Disney Springs during the day and Pursglove took care of her son while she was at work. She said they had been together since February or March. 

Toth, who investigators said often referred to her son as "brat," told authorities she and Pursglove were the only caregivers for Jayce and her boyfriend was the primary disciplinarian. She said Jayce regularly misbehaved and was disciplined daily, investigators wrote in the report.

According to the arrest affidavit, Toth said when she came home from work on July 15, Jayce said he didn't want to play and didn't feel well. The next day, after she came home from work, he was lethargic and started vomiting. On the day of his death, Jayce had been lethargic, vomiting and ill for three days. Toth told detectives on July 17 that her father told her to seek medical help for the toddler, but she didn't. It wasn't until Toth said she found Jayce unresponsive on the bedroom floor, lying facedown in a pool of vomit at 6:32 a.m., that she called 911, according to the arrest affidavit.

Jayce's biological father, Robert Martin, said he was shocked by the OPD detective's report to the Florida State Attorney's Office.

"My family is absolutely devastated from the findings in the report and we will stop at nothing to get justice for him," Martin said.

Signs of violence

Investigators said the home was mostly bare, making them believes the victim and his mother had recently moved in. Toth told investigators she and Jayce had moved into the Bethune Drive home several months ago.

Among the items mentioned in the report found in the bedroom with the young victim were a broken toilet seat, a liquor bottle and a pot plant outside the bedroom door. 

"The toilet lid and seat appeared to be clean, indicating this may be from a recent struggle or fight," according to the arrest warrant.

Victoria Toth

Investigators also noticed several fist-sized holes in the wall of the bedroom. Toth said both the toilet seat and holes were caused by her boyfriend. Pursglove also confirmed that to detectives.

A friend of Toth told detectives the mother had confided that sometimes Pursglove was disciplining Jayce so harshly she had to step in; however, when she did, he became violent with her as well. Pursgloves and his brother confirmed to investigators he had anger issues, saying he takes his anger "out on the world."

Jayce suffered unnecessarily, doctors say

According to Jayce's memorial page, the 2 1/2-year-old "enjoyed picking flowers, riding scooters, showing off his amazing dance moves, loving his mommy and cuddling." His hero was Batman and his favorite song was "The Weekend" by Brantley Gilbert.

On the day he died, medical examiners said the boy was wearing only a diaper, appeared malnourished and was "very thin." He also had bruises on either side of his forehead and several bruises under his jaw and on other parts of his body, medical examiners said.

When asked about the bruising on her son, Toth said her son had "awful balance and regularly ran into things." The 24-year-old said she didn't seek medical help because she didn't want to be judged for bringing her son to the emergency room, according to the report.

During the three-day period, Jayce was vomiting and ill, and while a visitor who came to the home happened to be a registered nurse, Pursglove and Toth did not ask her for help or to look at the boy, investigators said. She said a housemate told her Jayce was sick, but she didn't see him.

Medical examiner Dr. Marie Hansen wrote that Jayce died after blunt force trauma to his stomach created a hole in his intestines to form, which caused an infection known as peritonitis. According to Mayo Clinic, the condition can be fatal. Hansen said Jayce's case was very severe and the injury could have been caused by a "sucker punch." The medical examiner also noted that had Toth sought medical care for her son he could have made a full recovery.

Child protection team medical director and pediatrician Dr. Mark Kesler said Jayce would have suffered intense pain, and within 12 hours of the receiving the fatal injury, his caregivers would have known something was seriously wrong with him.

"Dr. Kesler has no doubt this child was the victim of abuse due to several bruises throughout his body, possible rib fractures that could have been previously sustained and his overall appearance," according to the report. "He said Jayce suffered unnecessarily and that this could be considered a 'torture case' … due to this child being severely neglected."

Investigators said they believe Toth didn't seek help for her son because Pursglove told her not to.

Toth was arrested Friday and charged with aggravated manslaughter of a child. She remains in the Orange County Jail without bail.

News 6 asked the State Attorney's Office if charges are pending against Pursglove.

News 6 legal expert Steven Kramer said the state may be hoping Toth will turn on her boyfriend, if he is charged.

"This could be an instance where the state is charging, or overcharging because they want the mother to cooperate in an investigation against who they believe is the actual abuser," Kramer said.

Kramer said the question is whether Toth will cooperate.

"Can she point the finger? Can she potentially serve as a witness that will allow the state to prosecute the case?" Kramer said.
 

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