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Las Vegas mother charged with murder in infant’s death

Updated August 10, 2019 - 4:07 pm

Jocai Davis’ father called 911 when the 2-month-old boy stopped responding in October. More than nine months later, the infant’s mother was charged with murder, although an arrest report does not say what Las Vegas police believe she may have done to injure the baby.

Jocai’s parents told police the baby was acting normal the day before police were called to the southwest valley home. Jocai’s mother, Kristina Kerlus was out of the home taking her oldest child to school when Jocai’s father woke up on Oct. 5 to find the baby lying on his stomach, the report said.

The father, identified in the report only as “Jaevone,” told police that he noticed the baby was “crying and seemed very irritated.” Jocai soon stopped responding to his father, the report said.

The man splashed water onto Jocai and called Kerlus, who told Jocai’s father to call 911, the report said. The baby was rushed to Summerlin Hospital Medical Center in cardiac arrest and was diagnosed with a brain bleed. He died at University Medical Center on Oct. 7.

Death ruled homicide

On July 25, the Clark County coroner’s office ruled his death a homicide because of blunt force head and neck trauma.

Kerlus was booked into the Clark County Detention Center the day after the ruling. Kerlus, whom her sister claims is wrongly accused, has since been charged with murder and child abuse or neglect, court records show.

Clark County Department of Family Services records indicated first responders were called after a “possible near drowning incident.” There was no mention of a drowning in Kerlus’ arrest report, other than a sentence noting first responders “stated that the child was not wet.”

Kerlus’ sister, 22-year-old Demi Kerlus, said during a July 27 interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal that there was no “near drowning experience.”

Demi Kerlus alleged Jocai was injured two weeks prior to his death at a day care provider, which her sister then reported to the Metropolitan Police Department. The 22-year-old said Jocai had bruising and an “open wound” on his ankles.

According to the report, Kristina Kerlus told police that the baby had “a scratch and bruises on his ankle area” when she picked him up from day care. It was unclear what day Jocai was injured.

Kristina Kerlus “filed a police report and documented the incident,” the report said. Further information regarding that report was not immediately available.

Jocai was with his father Oct. 4, until Kerlus came home from work and the man went to the gym that evening, the report said. When he returned home Jocai was in his car seat, the man told police. Jocai stayed in his car seat while the family went to dinner, and Kerlus put the baby to bed after the man went to sleep, he said.

Found on ground

Kerlus said Jocai slept next to her that night on a mattress on the home’s carpeted floor. She later woke up to find Jocai on the ground “like he rolled off,” but he acted “completely fine,” she told police.

On Oct. 4, Kerlus sent the baby’s father a picture and then a video of Jocai. In the video Jocai is “upright, responsive and interacting with her,” while in the picture the baby is “slumped forward and his color looked off,” an officer wrote in the report.

An officer wrote in the report that “between the 5-6 p.m. hour” until 9 p.m., Kerlus was Jocai’s “only caretaker.” She took the video of Jocai “early in the evening” and then took a photo where he “appeared not right.”

The officer wrote that Kerlus “insisted on leaving the residence to go out to dinner,” during which time she kept Jocai in his car seat until his father went to bed, the report said. Before Jocai died, Kerlus declined a taped interview. The couple initially agreed to a polygraph but declined to take the test after Jocai died, the report said.

The report did not indicate what, if anything, police believe Kerlus did to cause Jocai’s injuries. Jocai, who was born prematurely, was a carrier for sickle cell disease and was set to see a specialist for the blood disease shortly before his death, the report said.

The coroner’s office determined Jocai had hemorrhaging in his brain, eye area and spinal cord, along with healing “nerve fractures” on two ribs, the report said.

Kerlus and her attorney met with detectives at the detention center the day she was booked into jail. She has since been released after posting $100,000 bail, court records show.

Kerlus’ attorney has not responded to requests for comment. A preliminary hearing in the case is scheduled for Sept. 16.

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

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