Arnold, MO (KSDK) - The Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney's Office has increased the severity of charges against a local man accused of abusing a toddler who later died.
The Arnold Police Department had asked prosecutors to amend the charges against Jamell Johnson to murder after claiming Johnson confessed to squeezing, spanking and shaking the 18-month-old child.
Instead, the Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney's Office charged Jamell Johnson with first-degree child abuse (abuse resulting in death) and first-degree endangering the welfare of a child. Johnson was initially facing a lesser abuse charge.
Prosecutors said the abuse took place on September 2 after the child was left in Johnson's care. Prosecutors allege Johnson caused retinal hemorrhages to the child's eyes, as well severe head injuries and multiple bruises. The child survived for just over a day on a ventilator at Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center before dying.
Neighbors said they're heartbroken after witnessing emergency crews carrying out a young girl from an apartment. Now there's a growing memorial at the complex.
"I saw the baby being carried out by the fire-truck people and the ambulance and one dude like had it in the arm. The baby was unconscious like its head was hanging back and everything like it looked like it was out cold and there was a big old bruise on its cheek. It was upsetting, "said Dakota Gore, a Crosswinds apartment resident.
If convicted on the more serious child abuse charge, Jamell Johnson faces between 10 years in prison up to a life sentence.
NewsChannel 5 contacted the Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney's Office to ask about the decision against filing murder charges. Prosecutors said after looking at the evidence at hand, they determined these were the most appropriate charges.