State seeks death penalty against West Melbourne couple charged in 3-year-old’s death

Jameson Nance had been abused for weeks leading up to his death, police say

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

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – The state attorney’s office for Brevard and Seminole Counties filed a motion of intent to seek the death penalty against a mother and her boyfriend after investigators say the pair are both responsible for a 3-year-old boy’s death.

The motion of intent was filed on Aug. 19, according to the state attorney’s office.

A Brevard County grand jury indicted Joshua Manns, 25, and Erica Dotson, 27, on first-degree murder charges in July. Police said the two are responsible for the death of Dotson’s son, Jameson Nance.

Jameson Nance. (Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

Prosecutors described the murder as “especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel” and said it was committed while the defendants were either engaged in, or were accomplices to aggravated child abuse. They also cited provisions indicating that the couple had committed the capital felony on a person under 12, and stood in a “position of familial or custodial authority over the victim,” a news release on the state attorney’s website reads.

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.

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.

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.

In addition to the first-degree murder charges, both face charges of aggravated child abuse and neglect of a child with great bodily harm. 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.