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Death penalty sought for parents accused of killing 8-year-old son

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against a man and woman accused of killing their 8-year-old son, who drowned last year after suffering a large head wound.

In a notice of intent to seek the death penalty filed last week by prosecutors John Giordani and Pamela Weckerly, more than two pages detailed the numerous cuts, bruises and abrasions found all over Isaiah Gritz’s body. Prosecutors confirmed they were seeking the death penalty at an arraignment hearing Monday morning for Isaiah’s parents, Christina and Leon Gritz.

During a preliminary hearing in July, Justice of the Peace Amy Chelini said she had never seen a child abuse case “as bad as this.”

“I don’t think there was an inch of that kid’s body that didn’t have a scar on it,” Chelini said, according to court transcripts.

Leon Gritz’s defense attorney, Sarah Hawkins, declined to comment on the case on Monday. Christina Gritz’s defense attorneys did not reply to a request for comment.

The Clark County coroner’s office in April ruled that Isaiah’s death on March 20, 2021, was a homicide from drowning and “blunt force injuries in the setting of abuse and neglect of care.” During the preliminary hearing, prosecutors said Christina Gritz had taken a video of Isaiah as he drowned in a bathtub.

“It’s the state’s position that when you film your child, your 8-year-old, who has his face in water, a situation where you know they lack oxygen and you decide to just film it rather than pulling your kid out of water, that is a purposeful act,” Weckerly said, according to the transcripts.

Lisa Gavin, a medical examiner with the coroner’s office, testified that in her opinion, Isaiah was “alive during the video and in the process of drowning.”

Investigators found multiple Google searches related to child drownings that had been made from Leon Gritz’s phone, starting at 1:25 a.m. on March 20, 2021. The searches included the phrases “How long are you supposed to keep an 8-year-old in an ice bath,” “child puts face in water and is unconscious,” and “how to get water out of someone’s lungs.”

Leon Gritz called 911 just after 2 a.m., more than 30 minutes after the first Google search, the transcripts said.

According to Isaiah’s parents’ arrest report, paramedics who rushed the boy to the hospital found a head wound so large, they initially “believed it to be a gunshot wound.”

Leon Gritz had told 911 operators that Isaiah was “taking a bath and had put his face under the water, attempting to kill himself,” the report said. Christina Gritz told police she saw her son “slam his head against the bathtub multiple times” before trying to drown himself.

The medical examiner testified that some of Isaiah’s injuries were not consistent with being self-inflicted, such as deep tissue injuries to his buttocks and hemorrhaging in his neck muscles. There was scarring on Isaiah’s neck that was consistent with him “being grabbed in that area,” Gavin testified.

Gavin also found signs that Isaiah had been undernourished, according to the transcripts.

Other videos that the judge reviewed showed Isaiah’s parents yelling at him.

“It’s almost like you hated this kid, if I didn’t know any better,” Chelini said. “Telling this kid, ‘We’re going to get married. We’re going to renew our vows and we don’t want you there. You’re going to go (to) jail.’”

Leon Gritz’s defense attorney argued during the preliminary hearing that there was not enough evidence to charge Leon Gritz with first-degree murder and that he is not seen in the video of Isaiah drowning.

Jordan Savage, one of Christina Gritz’s defense attorneys, said during the preliminary hearing that there was no evidence that Christina Gritz had hit Isaiah.

“And just because she’s at home most of the time and he’s working, it certainly doesn’t really prove anything,” he said. “We don’t know. There’s a hole in the evidence.”

Chelini found that there was enough evidence for the Gritzes to face charges of murder and four counts of child abuse, neglect or endangerment resulting in substantial bodily harm.

They are due to appear in court again on Aug. 17.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter.

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