Newly released documents uncover what led to the death of 4-year-old Jayceion Mathis
VIENNA, Ga. (WALB) - WALB News 10 investigates uncovered new information involving 4-year-old Jayceion Mathis’ mother, Keara Cotton, 27, who was charged with his murder.
About the case:
Mathis’ remains were identified in March after being found in a Crisp County field. For months, Mathis had been reported missing by family members. When he was reported missing, family members told police that Cotton was abusive.
Cotton was charged with murder, concealing a death and cruelty to children.
WALB News 10 poured through hundreds of documents on the case. Those documents showed that DFCS struggled to confirm reported abuse in the home.
Mathis’ death and the subsequent charges against his mother came years after DFCS began working on the case.
What DFCS found prior to Mathis’ death
A newly released “log of contact narratives” from the Department of Health Services includes dozens of reports by DFCS case managers and police.
The documents, dating back to 2017, gave more insight into the conditions of the home and what complaints were reported leading up to Mathis’ death.
DFCS first became involved when Jayceion was still in the womb. His mother tested positive for drugs twice while she was pregnant.
Thirteen days after Mathis was born, doctors say he lost nearly two pounds. At six months old, he weighed 10 pounds. In a visit to the home three years later, the case worker estimated he only weighed 15-20 pounds.
He was then referred to an intervention program called “Babies Can’t Wait.” It helps children with developmental delays.
It became apparent to investigators there was something else going on in the home.
In August 2020, a caseworker says Mathis was fed one meal a day to “avoid him getting a bowel movement.”
The caseworker wrote that Mathis was observed as “not verbal,” still wearing a diaper and unbathed at 3 years old. They also observed there were no beds or light bulbs so the children would “not turn on the lights at night.”
It was also observed that Cotton and Mathis’ father got upset when he asked for food or drinks. They reportedly made him sit facing the wall as a form of discipline.
There were several reports over the years.
Some showed improved conditions in the home. Others showed negligence.
The report states there were “physical fights all of the time” in the home.
Reports indicate someone observed Mathis hiding and crying because he was afraid and couldn’t defend himself. That name was removed from the documents.
Reports claim that Mathis likely died between the end of October and mid-November 2021. His sister said she hadn’t seen her brother since Halloween. She told caseworkers that “the last time mom choked her, he cried but didn’t make any noise.”
Cotton’s boyfriend at the time said he’d been talking to her since the beginning of November and had never seen Mathis.
A social worker went to the house to schedule a face-to-face visit on Dec. 2, 2021. There was no answer.
Documents show DFCS and police attempted to contact Cotton again on Jan. 20, 2022, as she still had not complied with checks.
Police said Cotton texted her mother to ask if she could pick up her 8-year-old from school, and promised she’d bring Mathis, but did not follow through.
Mathis’ grandmother told DFCS case workers she “hopes it’s not too late” and hadn’t seen Jayceion for months. She added that Cotton did not have working water and had deactivated her DFCS page.
She then reported that an undisclosed person said Cotton would choke Mathis until he almost couldn’t breathe. A vetting process was in progress for the grandmother to take the children. A missing child alert was not made until Jan. 20.
Documents show the home was visited dozens of times by DFCS — but that there were no efforts to take Mathis out of the home nor hold Cotton accountable.
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