Thursday, December 01, 2022

Five years ago today: Jayda Kyle, 3, child abuse victim, dies at Children's Mercy Hospital

It was five years ago today that 3-year-old Jayda Kyle, a victim of child abuse, died at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City.

For the next couple of years, the photo that accompanies this post, was seen constantly on social media as people followed every twist and turn in the investigation into what happened to the child and offered their opinions, often based on rumor.

A Carl Junction Police Department news release was the first information provided to the public:

On Tuesday, Nov. 28th, 2017 at 9:03 p.m., the Carl Junction Police Department was notified of a 911 medical call at 405 Meadow Lake Drive in reference to a 3-year-old female not conscious and not breathing.

The child, Jayda Kyle, was transported by ambulance to Mercy Hospital in Joplin, and then life-flighted to Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. We began an investigation that night, and have since been assisted by the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office.

On Friday, December 1, 2017 at 3:56 p.m., Jayda was pronounced deceased at Children’s Mercy. An autopsy was conducted on Monday, December 4, 2017 and the pathologist ruled that the cause of death was due to a head injury.

The investigation has resulted in the arrest of 22-year-old Jalen Da’Shawn Vaden for child abuse resulting in death, which is a Class A felony. Charges are being sought with the Jasper County Prosecutor’s Office.

The final paragraph in the news release became the subject of speculation in the community.

The Carl Junction Police Department has not had any prior dealings with either adult in the household.

It was not a typical statement to put in a news release and indicated the stories that were circulating in the community that the case was being handled differently because the child's grandfather, Judd McPherson, was an attorney and had previously been a law enforcement officer.

When the probable cause statement was filed in Jasper County Circuit Court December 7, 2017, it further outlined the case against Jalen Vaden.

Vaden told police he "became upset over the child not being dressed in the pajamas he instructed her to put on." He picked the child up and threw her, causing her to hit her head on the floor, according to the probable cause statement.

A short time later, Vaden said, Jayda left the room still not wearing the pajamas. He said he threw her on the bed, then grabbed her by the leg and threw her face first on the floor.

When he returned, Vaden told the officers, he found Jayda "bleeding and unresponsive."

The meaning of the last paragraph in the Carl Junction Police Department news release became clear after Jasper County Children's Division documents obtained by the Turner Report included claims that McPherson had attempted to"manipulate/direct" the investigation and said McPherson and his wife Carmen, the parents of Jayda's mother, Devyn Kyle, had given "inconsistent statements" to investigators.

On 11/29/2017 at 3:46 a.m., Judd McPherson contacted me stating that all doctors had said this was a medical thing. However, medical records show that Devyn and family were notified by Dr. Michelle Pannell at Mercy in Joplin on 11/28/2017 at 10:37 p.m. that this was suspected non-accidental head trauma.

Children's Division was informed by law enforcement that while completing interviews of witnesses that Dr. Pannell stated Devyn was explaining that she found Jayda lying on the floor in her room at which point either Carmen or Judd corrected her and stated, "You mean when he found her" (talking about Jalen)."

When Children's Division determined that custody of Jayda's brother would go to another family member, McPherson did not take it well, according to the report.

When informing Judd of the current situation, he first asked who the judge was who signed the order, then he stated he would be getting that changed and ended the call. During this call, Judd did not ask any questions about the abuse and doctors have stated the family has not asked them either as to what or who could have caused it.

The report also revealed that Carmen McPherson and not Devyn Kyle rode the helicopter to Children's Mercy Hospital with Jayda.

Judd McPherson said that was due to the weight limit, according to the report, but Devyn Kyle told investigating officers and the Children's Division that she and Vaden "went home to change."

The report says McPherson received a court order allowing Jalen Vaden to have contact with Jayda at the hospital "after she had been diagnosed with abusive head trauma and knowing he was one of her caretakers at the time."

Jasper County Juvenile office documents dated November 30, 2017 revealed Jayda Kyle was likely already brain dead when she arrived at Children's Mercy Hospital, but she was not stable enough for doctors to do the test. They were able to determine that she appeared to have no brain activity:

"Initially, the ED doctor stated he believed the child had suffered an aneurysm. Jayda was then seen by a neurosurgeon with the SCAN team who reported the amount of brain bleed and retinal damage is non-natural causes."

The tests showed that Jayda had a severely torn retina.

"Due to this, she is reportedly blind."

Though Vaden, who was Devyn Kyle's live-in boyfriend, had confessed to committing the crime, he sent a letter to Jayda's father, Mack Kyle, telling a different story.

"I've prayed for you everyday since I got to this hell hole," Vaden said. "I pray that you know I didn't do this to J."

In the conclusion to his letter, Vaden told Kyle, "I pray for your peace and strength. I don't want to pretend like I know you so well, but the thing I do know, I know you've been through a lot in life to say the absolute very least. I have no words, nor are there any."

Vaden said he knew each day was a challenge for Kyle, but that he had to "keep pushing' for his other child. "He needs you more than ever now."

Vaden added, "Those babies were my life and I have you to thank for that."

In a letter written to a friend, Vaden claimed he was being framed. 

"I just can't sit in prison for something I didn't do. I'm getting burned for being loyal to the wrong people."

Vaden was not specific about who the wrong people were.

Vaden indicated his race may have something to do with his situation.

"They always talk about constitutional rights, but they forget that the dudes who wrote it had slaves and they weren't talking about us."

During a January 3, 2019 hearing, despite his earlier protestations, Vaden pleaded guilty to felony child abuse. Under a plea bargain agreement with the Jasper County Prosecuting Attorney's office, second degree murder charges were dismissed.

Greene County Circuit Court Judge Michael Cordonnier sentenced Vaden to 22 years in prison, with the stipulation that he would serve at least 85 percent of the sentence.

But before Cordonnier accepted the sentenced, he directed a series of questions at Vaden.

"Do you realize if you plead guilty your right to a trial will be lost forever."

"Yes, sir," Vaden answered.

Following the questioning, Jasper County Prosecuting Attorney Theresa Kenney detailed the evidence that would have been presented against Vaden had he elected to have a trial.

The details from the probable cause statement were recounted, but Kenney added others which explained why investigators zeroed in on Vaden rather than the other adult who was in the home at 405 Meadow Lake Drive in Carl Junction the night of November 27, 2017, Jayda's mother, Devyn Kyle.

When Carl Junction Police Department officers arrived, emergency medical personnel were already working on Jayda, Kenney said.

Vaden had blood on his shirt and there was blood on the floor in the child's room as well as on the bed.

After it was determined that Jayda Kyle's death did not come as a result of any medical condition, but rather from abuse, investigators questioned Vaden and Kyle separately after advising them of their Miranda rights.

Kenney said that in the videotaped interview, Vaden told officers he did not intend to hurt Jayda, but "he just snapped."

Vaden demonstrated on a doll what he had done to the child, including throwing her on the floor and causing her to hit her head, Kenney said, and then officers left the room as Vaden wrote on a piece of paper a description of the exact locations in the child's room where the incidents of abuse had taken place.

Vaden's descriptions of what he had done to Jayda and where he had done it matched up completely with the physical evidence from the crime scene and the medical evidence, Kenney said.

Kenney said the family of Jayda Kyle, some of whom were in the courtroom, were fully informed about the plea agreement.

Cordonnier asked if family members had any impact statements. Kenney said they did not wish to make any statements.

Another wrinkle was added to the case following the hearing when Vaden's attorney, Tracey Martin, issued a statement from Vaden:

Jalen has authorized me to make a statement on his behalf following his guilty plea.

Jalen continues to assert that his "confession" was not accurate or truthful.

However, he does take responsibility for a reckless, tragic accident that resulted in the death of a beautiful child. He feels extreme guilt and remorse for all of the families and individuals that continue to grieve for that precious little girl.

It has taken a lot of time to look at every piece of evidence and follow every lead. After a thorough review of the evidence, and the additional medical evidence only released last month, it became clear that Jayda's death was the result of reckless action.

Jalen had no intent to hurt or injure Jayda and unfortunately, that does not change the outcome.

He wants to personally apologize to both the Kyle and McPherson families for their loss. He also is disgusted by how the families have been treated on social media, and asks that people allow the families to process their loss without any further bullying or mistreatment on social media or otherwise.

While this is certainly not the outcome many hoped for, we promised to thoroughly review every aspect of this case to confirm that we found the truth.

While there may be unanswered questions, we have done all we can do to find and stand on the truth. Jalen hopes that taking responsibility will allow the families and the community to move toward healing.

Unfortunately, this case resulted in a number of hurtful, inaccurate facts being shared. We hope this resolution will end the speculation and gossip that has hurt so many.

Jalen hopes the three families can heal and work together in spite of him, so that the two young boys can be reunited as brothers. They lost their sister and extended family members.

There has been enough heartbreak.

Jalen believes it is time to allow these families to heal, hopefully together, for the boys.

Despite the guilty plea and the evidence presented by Kenney, social media sites still are seeking "justice" for Valen and he has not disavowed any of the sites.

Five years after Jayda Kyle's death, there is still only one person who confessed to investigators that he committed the crime and only one person who pleaded guilty in a court of law.

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