Little Jason Rimer was alone outside in the big sport utility vehicle. But no one seemed to notice.
He was a 4-year-old who still wore diapers, couldn’t dress himself and had trouble walking because of a genetic disease that crippled his body and his mind.
Yet his parents and five older brothers didn’t seem too worried that Jason wasn’t around.
When dinnertime approached, his mother worried long enough to lead a brief search of the family’s Las Vegas home. After a few minutes, she walked upstairs and joined her husband in their bedroom, where they ate chicken and broccoli, watched a movie and went to sleep.
The next morning, Jason’s 14-year-old brother found his body in the family’s Ford Excursion, lying on his back on the middle seat, wearing the white shirt, blue tie, black pants and black boots he had worn to church the day before.
He had been in the SUV for 17 hours.
On Wednesday, authorities charged Jason’s parents, Stanley and Colleen Rimer, with second-degree murder in their son’s death and multiple child endangerment charges in connection with filthy living conditions at their home and a history of physical abuse of their children.
"These allegations are very disturbing," District Attorney David Roger said.
Las Vegas police arrested the Rimers on Wednesday afternoon at their home at 4935 E. Cleveland Ave., near Sahara Avenue and Nellis Boulevard, after a two-week investigation into Jason’s death June 9.
Paramedics responded to the house that morning after a call to the 311 non-emergency line from a "very calm" Colleen Rimer, who said her son was cold and not moving, according to a police report. The paramedics called police after they saw Jason.
Police found a house in disarray. Outside, algae choked the pond, and pigeon droppings covered the walkway. Inside, boxes and debris cluttered the home, which was "malodorous" and littered with animal feces, the report said. Kitchen appliances were dirty, and food-encrusted dishes cluttered the counter and sink, the report said.
Officers found a different scene in the parents’ upstairs bedroom, which was cleaner than the rest of the house and had a fully stocked refrigerator and microwave.
The Rimers and their children told investigators similar stories about what happened during Jason’s last day.
Stanley Rimer and his five oldest sons, ages 9 to 19, drove to their Mormon church Sunday morning while Colleen Rimer and Jason stayed home. Stanley Rimer left church early because he wasn’t feeling well. He came home about noon and went to bed, he told police.
Colleen Rimer and Jason then drove to church, stayed for a couple of hours and returned home with all the children except 19-year-old Brandon Rimer, who was meeting with a church official.
Colleen Rimer climbed out of the Excursion and headed inside. She told police she asked her 15-year-old son, who also might be developmentally disabled, to get Jason out of the vehicle, but added he might not have heard her because she had laryngitis, the report said.
That boy gave conflicting accounts of whether he heard his mother’s order, and the other boys told police they didn’t hear her tell anyone to get their little brother, the report said.
Colleen Rimer, who said she was also feeling ill, went upstairs and napped, a common activity for her on Sunday afternoons, while the boys stayed downstairs and played video games.
After several hours, Colleen Rimer drove back to the church to pick up Brandon Rimer. The teenager told police she drove her husband’s Dodge truck, which was unusual because she always drove the Excursion, the report said.
When she went downstairs to cook dinner, Colleen Rimer told her children to look around the house for Jason.
"When I looked, I didn’t find him either. So I don’t know why it slipped my mind," Colleen Rimer told police. "Then I just went and took dinner to my husband."
At bedtime, the children slept downstairs in the living room because their bedrooms don’t have air conditioning, the report said. None of them noticed Jason was missing.
That night, Colleen Rimer woke up about 1 a.m. to go to the bathroom and "didn’t have the right kind of feeling. You know what I mean?" she told police. She lay down and went back to sleep.
During questioning by detectives, Colleen Rimer denied that she or anyone else intentionally hurt Jason. The detectives suggested that was the case, pointing to evidence that she drove a different vehicle to pick up her oldest son from church and suggesting she intentionally asked one of her developmentally disabled sons to get Jason from the SUV in hopes he would fail.
"He was my baby," she told them. "I protected him every day. I took him everywhere."
Jason was diagnosed with myotonic dystrophy after birth. Colleen Rimer was diagnosed with the genetic disorder at the same time, though it has not affected her physical or mental functions, her husband told police.
The disorder is a form of muscular dystrophy that can develop anytime in life, but is most severe when it develops in childhood. It attacks the muscles and other body systems and can stunt mental development if it begins early in life.
Jason functioned like a 2-year-old, had just learned to walk six months ago and had a vocabulary of about 25 words.
When asked who was responsible for Jason’s death, she said, "Just me," according to the police report.
Colleen and Stanley Rimer told police that the entire family helped care for Jason, including feeding him, clothing him and changing his diapers.
Stanley Rimer told detectives he was in bed sick after church until the following morning. He said he and his wife often had their children care for Jason.
"We usually have a pretty good head count," he said. "We’ve gone four years and nothin’ like this has ever occurred. All of a sudden we missed one, and he got left in the … the car. You never, you can’t foresee that."
The Rimer children all said that corporal punishment was handed out by their father. The children told investigators he would regularly beat them with a wooden paddle, a belt or fists as punishment.
Brandon Rimer said his father once kicked him with steel-toed boots because he didn’t clean his room, the report said.
Crystal Rimer, a teenage daughter who no longer lives with her parents, told investigators that her father beat her back and buttocks with a wooden boat oar, leaving bruises, and even ordered her brothers to join in the beatings, according to the report.
"He would punch me anywhere," she said. "I mean, it wasn’t a spanking or anything. He wanted to just hurt me."
He warned her against speaking with Clark County Child Protective Services workers because they wanted to "destroy family, they’re deceitful," the report said.
Clark County Family Services, which includes Child Protective Services, has had 21 contacts or referrals involving the Rimers since 1988. During a February 2007 home visit in response to allegations including physical abuse, neglect and sibling sexual abuse, a case worker warned the parents about the consequences of excessive corporal punishment, according to a child fatality information document. The worker told the children they could talk to school staff about what happened in their home and closed the case, finding the allegations unsubstantiated.
Contact reporter Brian Haynes at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0281.