Woman indicted in death of her 3-year-old child

Published 11:47 am Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A woman now faces a felony charge after a Carter County Grand Jury indicted her in connection with the November death of her young child.
Deputies of the Carter County Sheriff’s Office arrested Ayonjaleea Phillips, 26, formerly of Elizabethton but currently residing in Knoxville, on an indictment charging her with aggravated child endangerment. Following her arrest in Knoxville, deputies transported Phillips to the Carter County Detention Center where she remains held on a $100,000 bond.
According to the indictment, Phillips “on or about the 14th day of October, 2016, to the 18th day of November, 2016, did commit the offense of aggravated child endangerment by knowingly exposing her son Jakari Phillips (age 3) to or knowingly failing to protect the child from abuse or neglect resulting in physical injury to the child and such injury constituted a serious bodily injury.” Under state law, the charge against Phillips is designated as a “Class A Felony.”
The charge against Phillips stems from a police investigation into the death of Phillips’ son Jakari and a separate incident where the toddler was reportedly found wandering outside alone at an apartment complex. The time frame outlined in indictment begins with the incident where the child was allegedly found outside alone and ends on the date the child suffered the injuries that ultimately led to his death.
According to court documents, officers of the Elizabethton Police Department responded to an apartment complex on Bluefield Avenue around 6 p.m. on Oct. 14, 2016, in reference a 3-year-old child being found outside, and the caller did not know where the child lived. The caller told officers he had observed the child outside near one of the buildings and was concerned because he did not see an adult around.
As police began to investigate the incident, a resident of the complex was able to direct officers to the apartment where the child lived.
“After several attempts to make contact with the residents of Number 116, a male subject later identified as Demetrius Covington, and female, Ms. Ayonjaleea Philips, eventually answered the door,” EPD Cpl. Kirk Carrier said in a report on the incident.
According to Carrier, neither Phillips nor Covington appeared to be under the influence of an intoxicant, but he did smell an odor consistent with marijuana inside the apartment. Carrier reported seeing items of drug paraphernalia in the home and asked permission to search the apartment, which he said Covington granted. During the search, officers located marijuana in the apartment and Covington was issued a criminal summons charging him with simple possession of Schedule VI drugs and possession of drug paraphernalia.
On Nov. 18, 2016, police once again encountered Phillips and her son after she called 911 and reported Jakari was having difficulty breathing. She told officers she was taking her son to the hospital and when his condition worsened she pulled over and began performing CPR on her child.
The Carter County Rescue Squad was dispatched to the scene and transported the child for treatment. The child was taken first to Sycamore Shoals Hospital and then later to Niswonger Children’s Hospital where doctors placed him on life support. The child died at the hospital on Nov. 22 as a result of his injuries, which according to court documents were considered to be “non-accidental trauma and were not self-inflicted.”
According to court documents, the child suffered numerous bruises over his face, neck, torso, back, bottom, legs and foot. Court documents also state medical tests revealed the child had internal injuries, including swelling in his brain and a subdural hematoma, which is a collection of blood outside of the brain usually caused by severe head injuries.
Phillips told investigators she had left her son in Covington’s care while she was at work. According to police, she said Covington called her at work and asked her to come home, saying the child may have fallen in the bathtub. Phillips arrived home, got her son and then began the trip to the hospital.
According to police, Covington had fled the area before they were able to interview him regarding the child’s injuries. Investigators initially took out a warrant charging Covington with aggravated child neglect. Following the child’s death, investigators obtained a warrant charging Covington with first-degree murder.
Agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation working with the U.S. Marshals Service launched a multi-state search for Covington, and captured him in Dayton, Ohio, on Nov. 23.
On Friday, Covington appeared in Carter County General Sessions Court and waived his right to a preliminary hearing in the case. Carter County General Sessions Court Judge Keith Bowers Jr. bound the case over to the Grand Jury.

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