Grand jury testimony: 3-year-old asphyxiated

Relates to:
Date: 2001-01-06

A transcript reveals that the boy couldn't breathe after being wrapped in a blanket.

Three-year-old Alex Boucher could have died one of two ways: he was either wrapped so tight in a blanket that he couldn't cry or he was held in a position where he couldn't breathe. Either way, the boy was asphyxiated, authorities say.

Those details came from the Oct. 25 grand jury testimony of Medical Examiner Marie H. Hanson, which was released Friday after the St. Petersburg Times successfully argued that the public should be given access to the transcript.

The grand jury document, which included testimony from Hanson, New Port Richey Detective Jackie Pehote and a hospital grief counselor, was introduced by prosecutors at a Dec. 22 bond hearing. The testimony was used to indict James Curtis, baby Alex's caretaker, on first-degree murder charges.

Curtis, 26, was trying to adopt Alex. He is accused of killing the boy by wrapping him in a blanket.

The Times asked for a copy of the grand jury transcript in December, but employees at the Pasco Clerk of Court's Office denied the newspaper's request, saying that such transcripts should be released to the prosecution and defense. On Friday, lawyers for Clerk of Court Jed Pittman, along with prosecutors and a defense lawyer, had no objection to making the document part of the public court file.

In the 37-page document, Detective Pehote describes Alex's last day, including how he soiled his pants in Home Depot. Curtis got angry at him and pinched his cheeks, she said.

Shortly after, Curtis and his wife, Jennifer, took the boy home, according to Pehote's testimony. Jennifer Curtis put Alex down for a nap and went to the store. When she returned, Pehote said, Alex wasn't breathing and was lying in a pool of vomit.

Curtis later told detectives that he wrapped Alex tightly in a blanket.

Detectives weren't able to analyze the blanket or the vomit because Curtis shampooed the carpets and washed the bedding, Pehote said. He did this before the homicide investigation began.

The final testimony came from Colleen Dean, who was on the grief response team at Community Hospital in New Port Richey, where Alex was initially taken for his injuries.

She said that Curtis told her he felt guilty about punishing Alex for soiling his pants.

"My response was, you know, not knowing . . . the whole scope of what had happened, that sometimes we regret our decision that we make," Dean testified.

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The grand jury document, which included testimony from [Marie H. Hanson], New Port Richey Detective Jackie Pehote and a hospital grief counselor, was introduced by prosecutors at a Dec. 22 bond hearing. The testimony was used to indict James Curtis, baby [Alex Boucher]'s caretaker, on first-degree murder charges.

In the 37-page document, Detective Pehote describes Alex's last day, including how he soiled his pants in Home Depot. Curtis got angry at him and pinched his cheeks, she said.

Shortly after, Curtis and his wife, Jennifer, took the boy home, according to Pehote's testimony. Jennifer Curtis put Alex down for a nap and went to the store. When she returned, Pehote said, Alex wasn't breathing and was lying in a pool of vomit.

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