Boy's death brings rift for couple

Relates to:
Date: 2001-03-01

A wife turns her back on a husband accused of killing the 3-year- old they planned to adopt.

From his cell in the Pasco County jail, where he awaits trial on charges that he killed the 3-year-old boy he wanted to adopt, Jim Curtis wrote a series of letters to his wife. In them, he asked two things: Write me back, and please get in touch with my lawyer.

Jennifer Curtis did neither.

Feeling abandoned, Curtis lashed out at his wife of four years, who moved to Maine after New Port Richey police said Alex Boucher died at the hands of her husband.

"You . . . have turned your back on me without knowing the truth or my side," Curtis wrote. "You and your lies have made my life unbearable. I often think I can't go on."

Curtis' letters to his wife are included in a 2-inch stack of documents that prosecutors released Wednesday in response to a public records request from the St. Petersburg Times.

Curtis, 26, admitted wrapping Alex in a blanket at his New Port Richey apartment on Sept. 25 so the child "wouldn't get out of bed." That admission, coupled with an assistant medical examiner's conclusion that Alex died of asphyxiation, was enough to persuade a grand jury to indict Curtis on first-degree murder charges.

The rift between Curtis and his wife broke wide open in the hours following Alex's death, as detectives worked to solve the case.

The records released Wednesday show that doctors differed at first on how Alex died. The emergency room doctor who treated Alex at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg told a New Port Richey police officer that he saw no signs of trauma. The next day another doctor at All Children's told a detective that Alex appeared to be the victim of shaken baby syndrome.

Then came the autopsy report that said Alex had suffocated, and investigators turned up the heat on Jim and Jennifer Curtis.

It was Jennifer Curtis who convinced her husband to tell authorities what happened. Otherwise, she told him, she would be charged with murder.

"I was told . . . (Alex's) death had to be caused by either myself or James," Jennifer Curtis wrote in a sworn statement to police. "If one of us didn't fess up we were both going to be arrested. I then volunteered to go into Jim's questioning room to see if he would admit to" causing Alex's death.

Alex, a ward of the state of Connecticut, had been in Florida just six days before he suffered the fatal injuries. The Curtises, who had no children of their own, had temporary custody of Alex, and they were in the process of adopting him.

In his letters to his wife, Curtis wrote of his feelings for the boy. "You know how much I love the things I have done for him as well as you. I loved that little boy with all my heart and soul. You and him were my life."

The Pasco-Pinellas State Attorney's Office blacked out the portions of the letters where Curtis discussed the circumstances of Alex's death.

When his wife didn't write back or contact his attorney, Bob Attridge, Curtis made a final appeal: "Please stand by me and don't turn your back on me. . . . If you don't want to talk to me then please tell me."

Jennifer Curtis did not return a telephone message left by a reporter Wednesday at the house in Maine where she has been living.

A trial date for Curtis has not been set. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in the case.

- Cary Davis covers courts in west Pasco County. He can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6236 or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6236. His e-mail address is cbdavis@sptimes.com.

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Abstract (Document Summary)

Curtis, 26, admitted wrapping [Alex Boucher] in a blanket at his New Port Richey apartment on Sept. 25 so the child "wouldn't get out of bed." That admission, coupled with an assistant medical examiner's conclusion that Alex died of asphyxiation, was enough to persuade a grand jury to indict Curtis on first-degree murder charges.

The records released Wednesday show that doctors differed at first on how Alex died. The emergency room doctor who treated Alex at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg told a New Port Richey police officer that he saw no signs of trauma. The next day another doctor at All Children's told a detective that Alex appeared to be the victim of shaken baby syndrome.

"I was told . . . (Alex's) death had to be caused by either myself or James," [Jennifer Curtis] wrote in a sworn statement to police. "If one of us didn't fess up we were both going to be arrested. I then volunteered to go into [Jim Curtis]'s questioning room to see if he would admit to" causing Alex's death.

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