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The stepfather of a 6-year-old Grand Prairie boy who died in February 2020 was indicted in the child’s death on Thursday.
Jojo King died after spending four days in a Dallas hospital ICU. His stepfather, Brandon Hale, said he found the boy inside a toy chest, according to an autopsy report. Hale hypothesized that Jojo fell inside the chest and suffocated, according to Joseph King, Jojo’s biological father. King did not believe this narrative and maintains that Jojo died from drowning.
Hale was indicted on a charge of injury to a child related to Jojo’s death. He was charged in December. His attorney declined a request for comment on the indictment. In January, a spokeswoman with the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office said the office couldn’t answer why Hale has not been charged with murder because the office cannot comment on pending cases.
“I’m very glad to see the justice system is starting to prevail and start begin the necessary justice that (Jojo) deserves,” King said. “This has been a nightmare of a scenario for me and my family since this has taken place. And we are not going to get any sleep until this person is placed into prison where he belongs.”
An autopsy report concluded that Jojo died from hypoxic encephalopathy — a form of brain damage caused by loss of oxygen or drowning. The medical examiner notes that Jojo was wet when EMS found him and “there was concern for possible homicidal drowning.”
“The original circumstances were suspicious,” the report concluded. “And further investigative information only increases the concern that this was a homicidal event.”
King said that a Grand Prairie detective discovered that the toy chest Hale said Jojo was found inside was not air tight. Air could still go in and out of the container even when closed, meaning that Jojo could not have suffocated. A mannequin similar to Jojo’s height and size could not even fit inside the chest with the lid shut, King said.
The police department denied a records request for information on Jojo’s case.
Hale had previously pleaded guilty to abusing Jojo in March 2019.
King, who lives in metro Atlanta and is a homicide detective, went back and forth with Child Protective Services and Tarrant County courts to try and keep Hale away from his son. He was frustrated by the roadblocks he found in the justice system: the courts would not issue a protective order against Hale, CPS did not remove Jojo from Hale’s home and Hale’s probation terms from the first case of abuse did not ban Hale from being with Jojo unsupervised.
A CPS spokeswoman confirmed CPS investigated Jojo’s death, but said the records were confidential.
Jojo loves sports and was just starting to play baseball for the first time when he died. He loved superheroes and was known for his kindness at Florence Hill Elementary School. On Feb. 27, 2020, Jojo was taken off life support after doctors said the swelling in his brain was irreversible.