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Troubles started early for man accused in baby’s death

Jereme J. Bassett’s troubles started at a young age. The 22-year-old started smoking cigarettes at 13 and quickly graduated to alcohol and marijuana, then harder drugs like methamphetamine, his younger sister said Tuesday.

But the Spokane man’s arrest last week in the death of six-month-old Nevaeh Alana Miller, the daughter of his then-girlfriend Jennifer Wilcox, is difficult to comprehend, said Nalaura Bassett, a freshman social work major at Lubbock Christian University in Lubbock, Texas and a 2007 Rogers High School graduate.

“I can’t imagine what it’s like for the mom who lost the baby, and I don’t know what it’d be like to have your name all over the news and be labeled and stuff,” the 19-year-old said. “All I can say is that at this time in his life he needs love.”

Jereme Bassett sits in Spokane County Jail on $1 million bail, charged with second-degree murder. He appeared in court Tuesday, where District Court Judge Debra Hayes upheld his bail and prohibited him from using the jail phone after Spokane County deputy prosecutor Kelly Fitzgerald said he’d repeatedly tried to contact Wilcox.

Josh Bassett, Jereme’s brother, reportedly called Wilcox several times, once from his cell phone while visiting his brother in jail, Fitzgerald said.

Jereme Bassett was twice convicted of telephone harassment as a juvenile, Fitzgerald said.

Bassett was arrested early Friday. According to police, he was babysitting Thursday at the West Wynn Motel room he and Wilcox were renting, and called Wilcox about 3 p.m. to say Nevaeh had fallen and cried for about 15 minutes before falling asleep with a bottle.Two friends stopped by about an hour later and said Bassett was “scared and anxious,” according to court documents. According to court documents, they tried to “revive” Nevaeh, who later cried.

Bassett and his two visitors smoked marijuana while Nevaeh lay limp and unresponsive but breathing, according to police.

Wilcox, who works at Spokane’s Veterans Administration Hospital, arrived about 5 p.m. and called 911. Wilcox has an 8-year-old son who is staying with relatives, according to the state Department of Social and Health Services.

Bassett later told police he was drying Nevaeh after a bath and she fell. But police say a doctor at Scared Heart Medical Center determined the baby’s injuries were consistent with those of baby who’s been shaken.

Bassett’s mother, Tammy Naugle, and brother attended his court appearance Tuesday. NaLaura, Jereme and Josh lived with their father, Jerry, until he died of cancer in Dec. 2005. The four moved a lot when she was younger but settled in Spokane and the family has been here for the past 11 years, Nalaura Bassett said.

“My dad dying was one of the hardest things that happened to (Jereme), and I think that he used the drugs to kind of make the pain go away,” she said. “But it really didn’t make the pain go away.”

But even before their father’s death, contact between the two was brief and random, she said. Jereme fought with his father, got in trouble and used drugs. Nalaura just tried to stay out of his way.

“It was kind of difficult living in a house when you love someone and you want to help them, and you can’t change them,” she said. “He’s the sweetest person ever, but whenever he’s involved in drugs it’s like he’s a totally different person.”

Police say Bassett was unemployed, and that he and Wilcox had been living at the motel, located at 2701 W. Sunset Blvd., since March 7. Nalaura Bassett said her brother hadn’t had a job in a while. He was in and out of jail and unable to stay off drugs for extended periods time, she said.

“That’s what always got him into trouble,” she said. “He’s pretty much struggled with drugs for a long time.”

Nalaura, the youngest of her siblings and the first to graduate high school and attended college, said she hopes to reestablish a relationship with her eldest brother.

“All I can do is pray for him and show him that I care for him,” she said, “even though he made a mistake.”