A man accused of beating to death his girlfriend’s 1-year-old son has been charged with a previous assault on another child.
James R. “J.R.” Cooley, 22, already jailed on $1 million bond for first-degree murder, was ordered held on an additional $250,000 bail Tuesday on two counts of first-degree assault for the beating of a baby boy in May that left the child mentally disabled.
Cooley had been considered a person of interest in the assault since it was reported May 5, but he was not charged until he confessed during a police interrogation after his arrest for the murder charge last week, according to a probable cause affidavit filed Monday.
During the interrogation, Cooley wrote a letter of apology to April Fagan, the mother of the baby injured in May, saying, “I’m so sorry for what happened. I didn’t think it would hurt him that bad,” according to the affidavit.
Cooley told police Sept. 29 that he’d shaken the baby twice – the first time about three days before the boy, identified in documents by initials A.G., was hospitalized. Cooley said the baby, whom police initially identified as a girl, stopped crying each time, but he knew the child was injured the first time “when A.G. woke up from his nap with vomit on his face,” according to the affidavit.
“When asked why he did this, Cooley stated, ‘I was mad. I’ve been mad for months,’ ” the affidavit said.
Court records show Cooley has a history of allegedly violent behavior, including reports of an assault on his sister and an order for protection granted in Kitsap County against him on behalf of his ex-girlfriend, Kristyn M. Brown, and their two children, ages 1 and 2.
In an affidavit signed Jan. 26, Brown said Cooley had hit her and their son and threatened to kill her. A judge signed a restraining order in February. Three months later, Cooley had moved in with A.G.’s mother, who described him to police as an old high school friend, at 2708 W. 14th Ave., in Spokane.
Cooley’s sister and mother also lived there, as well as other children, police said.
Fagan told police May 5 that her son had fallen from a couch, but physicians said his injuries were caused by abuse.
Fagan said Cooley was a likely suspect and that he’d yelled at the boy to stop crying and shut up.
Cooley’s sister, Daisha Fry, told police Cooley was attending to the baby in his bassinet when the child stopped crying suddenly. Fry told police that wasn’t normal.
“Daisha stated that Cooley does have a temper and has had problems with his own children, who now live on the coast,” according to the affidavit. “Daisha stated CPS had been involved with Cooley in the past, but Cooley had been cleared by them.”
Spokane police confirmed with Child Protective Services that Cooley had been exonerated.
Cooley had initially denied hurting the child, and a child assault specialist told police she couldn’t determine when the injuries were inflicted.
Each witness was interviewed multiple times.
“After each interview, there were no admissions of guilt or other evidence to eliminate the other adults in the home,” according to the affidavit. “The case involving A.G. was left open and your affiant made numerous attempts to contact Cooley through family members. Cooley never responded and family members stated they did not know where he was staying.”
Turns out Cooley was living with a new girlfriend and her two children in a Hillyard apartment. Police say one of those children, 1-year-old Santiago Two Hearts, initially identified as Santiago McCreight, was beaten to death in the apartment Sept. 28 by Cooley.
Cooley told police he was upset with the boy’s crying and his own lack of marijuana, according to court documents.
Police said he faces additional assault charges for assaulting Santiago’s 4-year-old brother.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.