West Melbourne couple formally charged in death of 3-year-old boy

Both face first-degree murder charge

(Left) Erica Dotson, 27 (Right) Joshua Manns, 25 (Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – A mother and her boyfriend are now formally charged in the death of a 3-year-old boy who, according to West Melbourne police, was abused for weeks.

A Brevard County grand jury indicted Joshua Manns, 25, and Erica Dotson, 27, on Wednesday for the death of Dotson’s son, Nance Jameson, according to the state attorney’s office.

Investigators said that the child’s mother left the boy in Manns’ care at a home in West Melbourne on the morning of June 11 when she went to work. She told officers that she spoke with Manns around 6 p.m. and had a brief conversation about possibly going to look at a puppy after work, according to an affidavit. At that time, the boy was already dead, police said.

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The mother said she then spoke with Manns again about an hour later and he advised her not to drive, adding that the 3-year-old was “not good,” records show. Police said Manns eventually told the mother that the boy had drowned. The mother rushed home while calling 911, records show. The dispatcher made contact with Manns in an effort to provide CPR instructions to him, but the 25-year-old stated that he was no longer in the area, according to investigators.

When police arrived, they said they observed the boy’s face was swollen and had obvious signs of trauma. They also said they found several open containers of children’s Tylenol and cold compresses which appeared to show that someone tried to treat the child at home.

Investigators said they also found a note from Manns which claimed he had a seizure while giving the boy a bath and went unconscious, adding that when he came to the child was floating in the tub. The note also said he tried CPR but that “nothing worked.”

An autopsy later determined that the child had been abused for at least three weeks prior to his death, according to the affidavit. The medical examiner said there were significant signs of hemorrhaging and bruising that were in various states of healing, according to police. Officers said the autopsy also revealed the child had a broken rib, a broken tooth, damage to his esophagus and at least seven stab wounds to the head, at least three of which showed signs of healing. Records show there were no signs of drowning.

Manns was arrested in Georgia on June 29.

Dotson was arrested on July 13. Police believe she knew the abuse was taking place and did nothing to protect the child.

An affidavit detailing the evidence against the mother included texts between Dotson and Manns about the 3-year-old. The text exchanges included phrases like “F’him.” as well as “he’s being a jerk” and “sorry he’s being suck (sic) a (expletive)” when referring to the victim.

Investigators said they believed that Dotson and Manns had discussed stories about how to explain certain injuries, however, officers said their statements and the evidence from text exchanges do not line up.

Both Manns and Dotson face charges of first-degree felony murder, aggravated child abuse and neglect of a child with great bodily harm. Both are being held without bond. No trial date has been set.

About the Author:

Thomas Mates is a digital storyteller for News 6 and ClickOrlando.com. He also produces the podcast Florida Foodie. Thomas is originally from Northeastern Pennsylvania and worked in Portland, Oregon before moving to Central Florida in August 2018. He graduated from Temple University with a degree in Journalism in 2010.