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Mother's boyfriend is charged for 2-year-old boy's death in Springfield

An autopsy found the son of Chelsea Garrison died of 'abusive head trauma.'

September 18, 2012|by Gene Hartley | ghartley@schurz.com
Greene County Sheriff's Dept.

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The death of a toddler in June has led to a second-degree murder charge against the boyfriend of the boy's mother.  Austin Pelley, 22, is accused of causing the boy's death by abusive head trauma.

Benjamin Joseph Garrison died at a hospital in Springfield two days after he went there in critical condition.  An autopsy found the boy died of "abusive head trauma." 

Benjamin's mother, Chelsea Garrison, said she'd been dating Pelley for a couple of months and left her son in Pelley's care at his home in the Southwinds Apartment, 821 South Avenue.  She said she left to take a college test and found Benjamin unconscious when she arrived home.

At the emergency room, doctors found Benjamin's brain was bleeding and he had severe bruises on his face and body.  Surgeons had to remove a portion of the boy's skull to relieve pressure.

A resident who lived in the apartment directly below Pelley's apartment told police that he heard "what sounded like someone striking a slab of beef" in Pelley's apartment.  He also heard Benjamin crying.  The resident heard Benjamin crying but then Pelley's apartment weas silent.  A little later, the resident heard "what sounded like two loud 'thuds' on Austin's bathroom floor, which he described as similar to a sack of potatoes being thrown onto the ground, but didn't hear any crying or other noises," according to the detective's probable cause statement.

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After the other resident saw Garrison return to the apartment, and then rush out with Benjamin, he said Pelley left 10 or 15 minutes later and said something to his neighbor about only leaving the boy alone for two minutes and "they had been in the bathroom playing in the water having a good time."

Besides the second-degree murder charge, prosecutors filed an alternative charge of child abuse resulting in death.  The dual filing gives a judge or possibly a jury the ability to choose one charge or the other once the facts of the case are presented.  A conviction on either charge carries a prison sentence of 10 to 30 years in prison.

Pelley was in the Greene County jail on Tuesday in lieu of a $200,000 bond.

Benjamin's father is Drew Garrison.   He and Chelsea Garrison are divorced.

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