The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

October 2, 2013

Green pleads guilty to murder of child

By Wendy Holdren
Register-Herald Reporter

— “You killed that baby?” Raleigh County Circuit Court Judge John A. Hutchison asked James Green Tuesday.

“Yes, your honor,” Green responded.

“And you beat up the other?”

“Yes, your honor.”

James Travis Green, 24, of Fairdale, now faces life in prison with mercy for the murder of his 2-year-old stepson, Graydon Morgan, and an additional two to 10 years for child abuse toward Graydon’s twin brother Zeke.

Green and the mother of the boys, Brandy Smallwood, 28, were both charged Feb. 10 with first degree murder, death of a child by child abuse, child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury, child neglect resulting in death and child neglect resulting in serious bodily injury.

By entering his plea of guilty to count one and count three, the court dismissed counts two, four and five against Green. Pleading guilty also will give Green the possibility of parole after he has served 15 years.

Green agreed to testify truthfully against Smallwood as part of the agreement.

West Virginia State Police responded Feb. 8 to a report from neighbors of an unresponsive and bloody toddler. Neighbors said that Green told them Graydon had fallen out a window, but police later discovered Green had punched out the window himself.

Raleigh County Prosecuting Attorney Kristen Keller reviewed Graydon’s extensive list of injuries reported by the medical examiner, including traumatic injuries to the face and neck, brain hemorrhaging and cigarette burns.

Graydon was taken to Raleigh General Hospital, then to Women and Children’s Hospital in Charleston where he died as a result of his injuries.

Keller said the medical examiner reported that the liver and spleen damage Graydon sustained would have resulted from a very strong punch to the gut. Evidence pointed to Graydon being shaken, tossed and punched.

She said Zeke’s injuries were consistent with his brother’s, but not as serious.

As for why the case didn’t move on for a trial, Keller said it’s difficult to turn down a life sentence.

“In any case, no matter how strong the evidence looks to police and prosecutors, we always have to worry that there could be just one juror who wasn’t convinced and then even when we get a conviction, we always have to worry about what the state Supreme Court will think about the state’s rulings.”

During the plea hearing Tuesday, Keller noted the sequence of events of the tragic day.

Even though Green was supposedly engaged to another woman and Smallwood was maintaining telephone contact with the biological father of her children (who was in Southern Regional Jail), Green and Smallwood went to Raleigh County Circuit Court Feb. 8 and got married. They sold a car for $2,000, which Keller said was spent on oxycodone instead of diapers and baby food.

“They got married, got high all day, went home, Smallwood left to go pay a drug dealer and while she’s gone, Graydon is horrifically beaten to death and Zeke is horrifically battered.”

Keller said Smallwood admitted that she had seen “at least a few injuries” in the days prior to Graydon’s death, after Green moved in with her.

“She doesn’t admit inflicting any injuries.”

Smallwood is being held at Southern Regional Jail and is awaiting trial in November.

Keller said Smallwood and Green’s charges were the same, and her guilt or innocence will all depend on evidence presented at the trial.

Green’s defense attorney noted Tuesday that he had “begged” not to be left alone with the kids.

“In homicide cases, if one can prove that the caretaker has reason to believe the child could be subjected to serious bodily injury or death and then leaves the child in the hands of the abusive, then the absent parent could be criminally liable as well,” Keller said.

“I never spoke with him, but the combination of her claim to have seen pre-existing injuries and his statement that he begged not to be left alone with the child is serious evidence.”

Keller said some people say that Green and Smallwood only knew each other a few weeks, and some say a few months, but no matter, “their relationship seemed to be oxycodone fueled.”

“Like with guns, oxycodone isn’t causing people to murder babies. It is drug-related and perhaps the same culture of people that spends their time... not working, spending all their cash buying illicit drugs and entertaining themselves that way — It’s pretty disgusting.”

Keller said Graydon’s brother Zeke is OK physically, but added, “He’s a twin that was there when his twin brother was murdered.”

Green is being held at Southern Regional Jail until he is sentenced Jan. 14 at 9 a.m.

— E-mail: wholdren@register-herald.com