PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — A judge next week will hear legal arguments by the attorney of a father accused of neglecting his son why text messages indicating he knew of alleged abuse should be barred at trial.
That’s the ruling from Peoria County Circuit Judge John Vespa who pushed a hearing on Wednesday back to next week after the defense attorney, Gary Morris, indicated he had forgotten to subpoena a key witness.
Vespa wasn’t happy about continuing the hearing and noted it wasn’t the first time there had been issues with subpoenas in the case. But both prosecutors and Morris agreed to the continuance so he relented.
Morris wants to ban text message conversations between his client, Brandon Walker, and Stephanie Jones, the parents of Navin Jones who was found unresponsive at his home on North Gale Avenue on March 29, 2022.
Jones and Walker are both alleged to have “withheld medical care and nutrition from Navin Jones,” knowing such acts created a strong probability of death or great bodily harm to the boy, according to authorities.
Navin weighed 30 pounds when he was found. The room he was in was tied shut. There was urine and feces throughout the room. He had one bed, one dresser, and one toy in the room. There were marks showing alleged abuse, prosecutors have said, on his face, body, arms, and legs.
If convicted of murder charges, both could spend the rest of their lives behind bars.
The text messages are from October 2021 where Walker and Jones are discussing punishment for the little boy. The messages allegedly state Walker wanted to put the boy in the basement as punishment for urinating on the wall.
Other text messages, according to a transcript of grand jury testimony provided by Morris in his motion, seem to indicate Walker knew Navin Jones was losing weight and that he probably needed medical care.
Morris contends the messages should be barred because police used them as evidence at a grand jury proceeding without first obtaining a search warrant.
Jones, 36, will go to trial on Jan. 22, 2024. Brandon Walker, 41, will go to trial on Dec. 11.