Case dropped against stepdad accused over boy’s death

Cheryl Goodenough |

Aaron Harley James has been freed after spending more than two years in custody
Aaron Harley James has been freed after spending more than two years in custody

A mother says she can finally grieve the death of her son after prosecutors dropped charges against the man accused of killing the toddler.

Savannah-Rose Wilson’s then partner, Aaron Harley James, has been freed after spending more than two years in custody accused of killing his 16-month-old stepson.

Mr James, now 35, was committed to stand trial charged with the murder of Jaylen, who died in hospital in January 2022.

He pleaded not guilty to manslaughter when prosecutors presented a new indictment to the Brisbane Supreme Court on Tuesday.

After an adjournment, the Crown said it would not proceed with charges against Mr James.

Ms Wilson, who has her son’s name tattooed on her shoulder, said she had not been able to grieve her “beautiful” son.

“I’m just happy to see the truth prevails today. My son can rest finally,” she told reporters outside court.

“I’ve lost family, I’ve lost friends because we’ve been painted as murderers and we loved our son.”

Savannah-Rose Wilson outside court
Savannah-Rose Wilson has her son’s name tattooed on her shoulder. (Darren England/AAP PHOTOS)

Evidence suggested Jaylen’s death was an awful tragedy, Justice Peter Callaghan told jurors who were discharged without proceedings getting under way.

“It is at least the case that this tragedy will not now be compounded by the conviction of an innocent man.”

Before the jury was empanelled, Justice Callaghan questioned Crown prosecutor David Nardone about a police interview in which a child was pressed for information before giving a second statement.

Justice Callaghan questioned whether this had been reported to the police commissioner, Crime and Corruption Commission, Family and Child Commission or Human Rights Commission or any action taken against the officer, with Mr Nardone saying not as far as he was aware.

“For the last two years this police officer has continued thinking it’s perfectly OK to interview a 14-year-old like this,” Justice Callaghan said.

There was no evidence of violence or mistreatment by Mr James against the child, Justice Callaghan said after discharging the jury in response to the Crown dropping charges.

“The evidence that you would have heard would have established that there was a loving relationship between Mr James and Jaylen.”

There was no build up to Jaylen suffering the injuries, with Mr James having arrived home from work a few minutes before.

It was a wet day, there was water on a hard floor and the boy slipped while running, the evidence of those living in the house suggested.

He hit his head, suffering a fractured skull and brain bleed.

Mr James attended to the boy, with an ambulance being called immediately.

Justice Callaghan said photos showed the injury to the boy’s skull was consistent with a particularly shaped table leg.

Paramedics were called to a house at Burpengary, north of Brisbane, on December 30, 2021 in relation to the welfare of the boy, police said earlier.

Jaylen was taken to hospital in a critical condition and died about a week later.