The Morgan County couple accused of murdering a three-year-old are bound for circuit court. Thomas Joseph (T.J.) Presley, 21, waived his right to a preliminary hearing Thursday morning, but his girlfriend, Jamie Ann Litton, proceeded with her preliminary hearing Thursday afternoon at the Morgan County Justice Center in Versailles.
Both are charged with second-degree murder in the Feb. 16 death of Litton's three-year-old son, Blake Evann Litton. At the conclusion of the hearing, 26th Circuit Court Judge Kevin Schehr upheld Litton's second-degree murder charge as well as two separate charges of endangering the welfare of a child. The pair will face arraignments on August 23.
Morgan County Acting Prosecuting Attorney Doug Kinde called four witnesses to the stand to establish the case that Litton knew about the severe abuse of Blake in the early morning hours of Feb. 16 and did not report the abuse to authorities.
Kinde took over for Prosecuting Attorney Dustin Dunklee, who is deployed with the military. An autopsy performed at Bothwell Regional Hospital in Sedalia determined Blake died due to blunt force trauma to the head and a lacerated liver.
Litton, donning bright green Cole County jail clothing, showed little emotion throughout the hearing as Kinde questioned two Morgan County deputies and two members of the Missouri State Highway Patrol. T.J. Presley originally reported the incident to police at 5:12 a.m. as a hit-and-run accident.
Presley allegedly told a Morgan County deputy that he stopped on the side of the road to allow Blake to use the bathroom during a trip to Presley's brother's residence in Sedalia. Presley told police Blake ran into the road and was struck by an oncoming vehicle. Members of Litton's family, who sat in the front row of the courtroom, shook their heads in disbelief at the accusation. The deputy described searching for loose vehicle parts, tire tracks, blood and urine along the side of the road but found nothing. Following the autopsy, the case was ruled a homicide.
The crux of Kinde's evidence focused on Litton's behavior at work during the night and text messages sent between Presley and Litton between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. According to testimony by Morgan County deputy James Walker, Litton allegedly asked a co-worker "to borrow money to take her son to the hospital" after receiving text messages from Presley saying that said he "had lost it" when Blake soiled himself.
Other texts allegedly contained details about how Presley abused Blake. Presley took Blake and his younger sister Faith to Golden Age Nursing Home in Stover to visit Litton while she was at work. According to Stacey Mosher of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Presley arrived at Litton's workplace around 5 a.m. and stayed for 3 minutes. Security footage shows Litton visiting with Presley. Litton allegedly took Blake's pulse before returning to work. Presley then drove to the site of the feigned hit-and-run with Blake and Faith. Kinde alleges Litton did not call for an ambulance or police once Presley left.
Litton, whose shift was scheduled to end at 6 a.m., clocked out at 5:15 a.m. She then allegedly walked to a co-workers house to use a phone charger and was driven to the scene thereafter.
Mosher, who interviewed Litton Feb. 16, testified that Litton told her she "hoped it was a car accident, because that would have been easier to accept."
The defense did not present evidence at the hearing. Following the hearing, Litton hugged family members. "It will be okay," Litton told one family member through tears.
Litton is represented by Max Mitchell of Sedalia. Mitchell is the third attorney representing Litton. Presley is represented by Karie Comstock of Lebanon. Litton's daughter Faith was placed with relatives.