Standing outside a North Las Vegas courtroom Wednesday morning, a grieving grandmother caressed the square button affixed to her shirt.
It was a photo of a baby boy in a cerulean, fuzzy onesie smiling with his tongue out, gazing at something unseen to his right.
“That’s my baby,” Shelby Mannino said of her 2-year-old grandson, Jackson James “JJ” Newman. “I love him so much.”
Mannino, JJ’s great-grandmother and her boyfriend wore the JJ buttons and watched as JJ’s 27-year-old father, Chad Newman, and Newman’s 36-year-old girlfriend, Haydee Razo, were brought into a North Las Vegas Justice Court hearing in chains to face a judge.
They focused intently as Newman and Razo affirmed to Justice of the Peace Kalani Hoo they understood the charges against them — first-degree murder, child abuse with substantial bodily or mental harm and conspiracy to commit a non-felony crime — in JJ’s Feb. 5 death.
The Clark County coroner’s office ruled his death a homicide due to blunt force injuries with neglect of care as another significant contributing condition.
Newman called 911 that morning to report his son had vomited and wasn’t breathing at their trailer at 2905 Las Vegas Blvd. North, but JJ was already dead by the time he arrived at University Medical Center, according to Newman’s arrest report. Hospital staff told a detective that his physical appearance “was one of the worst cases of malnourishment they’ve seen,” the report said.
Newman and Razo told police they noticed he was losing weight and began throwing tantrums in the weeks leading up to his death, the report said.
That wasn’t always the case, though, JJ’s family said Wednesday.
The last time Mike Fassler saw JJ, June of last year, he was a happy, “bright young man.”
JJ held a water bottle with some ice in it, said Fassler, the 67-year-old boyfriend of JJ’s great-grandmother.
“He worked that bottle trying to get that ice out of there,” Fassler recalled. “It was adorable.”
“And he certainly wasn’t starved,” he added.
“The kid ate like a pig. He ate everything. He ate broccoli and beef from Panda Express,” she said.
Mannino last saw JJ on Sept. 24, but had tried multiple times to visit him since then. She said she visited the trailer about twice a week for four months to try to see her grandson, but eachtime she was rebuffed with “a bunch of baloney answers,” often by Razo, she said.
Mannino grew concerned for JJ as time passed. She called Clark County Child Protective Services and police but felt she got the runaround from both agencies, with one suggesting she contact the other and vice versa, Mannino said.
Clark County spokesman Erik Pappa said state law precludes him from discussing individual cases.
A CPS report indicated the division investigated an abuse claim on Dec. 1, 2016, about six weeks after JJ was born, but it was found to be unsubstantiated. That report also mentions a referral on Jan. 30, about a week before his death, that was marked “information only.”
Mannino accompanied two officers on a welfare check at the trailer, she said, and they were told JJ was with his father.
Officers visited the residence and cleared the call as “resolved, which indicates they made contact and were assured the child was in good health and wellness,” North Las Vegas spokeswoman Delen Goldberg said Wednesday.
She said officers can alert Child Protective Services if they have concerns about a child’s situation, but ultimately the agency would be responsible for removing a child from a home.
“I just want JJ to know that grandma fought and great-grandma fought, and great-grandma fought, that his whole entire family is standing behind him and fighting for him,” Mannino said.
The court scheduled a preliminary hearing for Razo and Newman for 9:30 a.m. on Aug. 30.
Attorneys for Razo and Newman declined comment.
How to report abuse
The public can call the 24/7 Clark County Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 702-399-0081 for urgent situations. The county advises the public call 911 for emergencies.
Further county child abuse resources and information can be found here.