Parents on trial in death of 4-year-old left in SUV


The image of 4-year-old Jason Rimer in death was stark.

His body was stretched out on a couch. He wore his Sunday best: a white button-down shirt, a dark tie and slacks. His mouth was open. His eyes were closed.

The boy died after being strapped in the back seat of a sport utility vehicle for at least 17 hours on a June day in 2008.

Jason suffered from myotonic dystrophy, a genetic disorder that crippled his body and mind, and he was unable to free himself. He was found the next morning, June 9, by an older brother.

Prosecutors showed the dead child's photo to a Clark County jury during Wednesday's opening statements in the trial of his parents, Stanley and Colleen Rimer, who are accused of second-degree murder and child abuse and neglect for leaving their disabled son in a Ford Excursion.

Prosecutors argued the parents exhibited a pattern of neglect toward their eight children that was bound to lead to tragedy.

Jason and his siblings lived in a filthy home littered with animal feces, had head lice and had been provided minimal food, prosecutor Mark DiGiacomo said.

Over the years, Colleen Rimer had become overwhelmed by her responsibilities to the children and the home. And Stanley Rimer had completely abdicated "his responsibility as a father," DiGiacomo said, except when it came to dealing out corporal punishment.

But defense attorneys said the parents were fighting their own illnesses the day Jason was left in the vehicle.

Stanley Rimer was sick and in bed when Colleen Rimer and the children returned from church that Sunday, said Deputy Public Defender Tim O'Brien.

"Stan had no knowledge of what transpired that day in regards to Jason. He was not aware that Jason was left in that car and he was never aware that Jason was missing," O'Brien told the jury.

O'Brien added that the accusations of child abuse and neglect were brought against the couple only after Jason's death, even though numerous visits by child protective services over the four years of Jason's life did not result in charges against the parents.

Attorney Michael Sanft, who represents Colleen Rimer, told the jury that she feels responsible for her son's death.

When asked by detectives who was responsible for Jason that day, Colleen Rimer told them, "I'm the only one," Sanft said.

Colleen Rimer, who also suffers from myotonic dystrophy, did not willfully cause the death of her son, Sanft said. "We have a tragedy. We don't have a crime," he said.

Sanft said his client relied on help from her other children who pointed out that Jason was missing. A brief search was conducted by the children, who ended it to play video games. Meanwhile, Colleen Rimer had retired to the master bedroom with her husband. Colleen Rimer was later found to have had bronchitis at the time, Sanft said.

After opening arguments prosecutors began calling their first witnesses in the case including fire department personnel and a crime scene analyst.

The trial is expected to last more than two weeks.

Contact reporter Francis McCabe at fmccabe@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039.

 

Rules for posting comments

Comments posted below are from readers. In no way do they represent the view of Stephens Media LLC or this newspaper. This is a public forum. Read our guidelines for posting. If you believe that a commenter has not followed these guidelines, please click the FLAG icon next to the comment.