‘Excruciating pain’: Father of 2-year-old beating victim says system failed son

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Dad says toddler didn't want to go to mom's house

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) — Jayden Hines was only 2 years old, a little boy who loved playing and pizza. Last week, his life came to a sudden end. 

Now Jayden’s father, Rashawd Hines, says his son’s death could have been prevented if only people had listened.

Though only a toddler, Jayden had used his words to communicate that he didn’t want to go to his mother’s house. The toddler split his time between his parents’ homes, and records show Jayden’s dad expressed safety concerns to the court, noting Jayden’s objections.

On Thursday, April 8, in accordance with the court-ordered custody agreement, Hines dropped off his son.

Lakeland police said Alegray Jones, a man dating Jayden’s mother, beat the toddler until he was unconscious. Instead of calling 911, he texted the child’s mother who rushed home from work.

Police said Jones never attempted to call for emergency assistance for Jayden.

An autopsy showed multiple bruises over Jayden’s entire body, a laceration to the liver, bleeding of the brain, and likely an adult human bite mark to the left forearm.

Jayden’s death was ruled a homicide due to blunt force trauma.

“It’s excruciating pain to even think about what I could’ve done better in order for me to prevent this from happening,” said Hines. “I just wish I would’ve just kept him that day.”

Hines said he warned the Florida Department of Children and Families and the court.

“How many more kids the system has to fail in order for this message to get through to them that things need to change,” Hines said. “After I called DCF, no one did anything. After me stating to the judge, no one did anything.”

On Feb. 12, 2021, Hines filed a letter with the Polk County Clerk of Court requesting a new hearing, citing concerns. He wrote to Judge Torea Spohr, saying in part, “I strongly feel for the safety of my children… my son cries his eyes out when he has to go…”

On Monday, WFLA reached out to Spohr and DCF. Spohr had no comment, and DCF said they’re still researching the case.

Hines says his days are dark, but he’s doing his best to stay strong for Jayden.

“I will not stop, and I hope you guys don’t stop to get my son’s story out there. Push it, push it, make sure everybody knows the truth. Push my son’s story because he deserved better,” he said.

The state attorney is still investigating, and more charges could come in Jones’ case.

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