The parents of the baby who police say was abused by his mother’s boyfriend carried a framed photo of him Monday.
Taken just a few days after his birth, the photo shows Izayah Arlen Wayne Denison buckled in a car seat, peering at the camera and wearing a shirt with the lettering “my hero” on the front.
Now, just a few days shy of his 3-month birthday, Izayah lies brain-dead in Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital, awaiting surgery to remove organs to donate.
“He’s now a hero to a lot of babies,” said the boy’s father, James VanCuren, 25.
Medics arrived at the apartment Izayah shared with his 3-year-old brother and mother, Jenauh (pronounced Gina) Denison, in the 1400 block of East Seventh Avenue late Friday and found him unconscious, with a neighbor performing CPR.
Police arrested Andrew W. Whitmire, 22, at Sacred Heart Medical Center later that night after determining he’d been caring for the boy after Denison, his girlfriend, checked herself into the emergency room earlier that day for postpartum depression.
Whitmire appeared in Spokane County District Court Monday on a charge of first-degree assault of a child, where Judge Sarah Derr set his bail at $1 million and said the charge will be upgraded to first- or second-degree murder once Izayah is taken off life support.
Snow delayed a team of doctors en route from Seattle Monday to look at Izayah. They arrived late Monday night, and VanCuren and Denison expected the boy’s organs to be harvested today.
“It’s not going to really kick in until he’s gone,” Denison said.
Papers filed in Spokane County District Court Monday show Denison arrived at Sacred Heart Medical Center about four hours before Izayah arrived not breathing and with bruises on his legs, back and buttocks.
Izayah, who Denison said was colicky, had been crying that evening but had calmed down when she gave him to Whitmire, according to the court documents. Whitmire told doctors he’d changed the boy’s diaper and fed him a bottle, then found him limp on the couch after setting him down to sleep.
When Spokane police Detective Mark Burbridge told Whitmire the boy’s bruises appeared to have been recent, “Andrew put his head down for approximately 2 minutes and then said ‘I didn’t mean to hurt him,’ ” according to court documents.
Whitmire said he’d been playing with the boy when his head snapped back, but after Burbridge accused him of lying, Whitmire said he’d spanked the boy, “but not very hard,” according to the documents.
“Andrew said ‘If Izayah was going to cry; he would give him something to cry about,’ ” Burbridge said.
According to the documents, Whitmire told Burbridge the baby had gone limp and stopped breathing after he shook him three times.
Izayah’s case is similar to another from earlier this year. In March, Nevaeh Alana Miller, 7 months, was taken off life support after her organs were donated to three babies.
Her mother’s now-ex-boyfriend, Jereme J. Bassett, 23, is scheduled for trial in January on a second-degree murder charge. Nevaeh’s mother, Jennifer Wilcox, 29, was working at the Spokane Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center when she left Nevaeh and her 8-year-old son with Bassett at the room they were renting at the West Wynn Motel.
She said she cried when she learned what happened to Izayah and was struck by how similar the stories were.
“I left my baby with him because I trusted him,” Wilcox said in a phone interview from her Clarkston home. “It kind of opens your eyes – I just would never leave my kid with nobody unless it was a family member now.”
That’s what VanCuren and Denison want people to learn from Izayah’s story.
“Our main objective here is to let people know not to trust no one,” VanCuren said.
Said Denison, “In a way, I do think it’s my fault. I had him at my house. All I know is I hate myself for doing that … I wish we could be psychic.”
Denison and Whitmire had been dating since August, and Denison said Whitmire considered Izayah to be his own son.
“He’d hold him. He’d dance with him. He’d rock him to sleep,” she said.
Izayah will be cremated, and his ashes will be divided into two urns, one for Denison and one for VanCuren. They plan to get tattoos to remember the son they said was strong, giggly and alert.
“Every time I’d hold him he’d just look at me and smile and giggle,” VanCuren said.