Videos show mother’s plot to mislead investigators in child’s beating death

Investigative

ISLE OF WIGHT, Va. (WAVY) — 10 On Your Side is investigating the devious depths a local mother plunged into before she pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the beating death of her 5-year-old son.

Jaye Hadley and her boyfriend Justin Cox are serving prison sentences of 20 years and 10 years, respectively, for their roles in the death of 5-year-old Levi Robertson.

Robertson was rushed to Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters with severe injuries in January 2018 and died eight days later.

At her sentencing late last month, the judge in the case told Hadley “you killed your child just as sure as if you had pulled a trigger,” and “you could have taken him out” of the abusive situation.

Videos 10 On Your Side obtained from her case file show Hadley lying to investigators, and trying to cover not just her tracks, but those of her boyfriend. Hadley was more interested in protecting that relationship than the welfare of her own defenseless son.

It was December 2017, and in a video Hadley was making with her son Levi, she’s asking the boy about her boyfriend, Justin Cox and how he treats Levi.

“Does he try to make you better?” Hadley asks her son as he sits on a couch. Levi responds yes. “How does he try to make you better?” she asks. “(He’s) Trying to toughen me up,” Levi says. “Trying to toughen you up, trying to make you a big man?” “Uh huh,” Levi responds.

A judge would later say that in the video, Levi was under duress. Prosecutor Steve Edwards called it an attempt by Hadley and Cox to create a “video paper trail” to show Levi’s biological father that Levi did not fear them.

But at five years, 10 months and just 39 pounds, he had plenty to fear. Autopsy photos showed how his buttocks, thighs and other areas were badly bruised.

After Hadley’s sentencing July 24, Prosecutor Steve Edwards described in graphic detail the abuse Levi suffered.

“The beating on the child’s buttocks, and the autopsy photos that came from them, were much more comparable to roadkill.”

Three weeks after Hadley made the video with Levi, Isle of Wight sheriff’s deputies and medics were rushing to the home on Yellow Hammer Road she shared with Cox.  Levi was unresponsive.

A deputy’s body cam video shows EMS personnel already working on Levi in the ambulance. “We’re in cardiac arrest,” a medic says. “Find out what happened.”

The deputy asks Hadley what happened. “He fell out of the tree stand in the back yard,” she said.

Hadley says Levi fell from the top of the tree stand, about 15 feet. She said after the fall, Levi came inside, his the back of his head on a wall and started having seizures.

To this point, she has not given any indication that the fall from the tree supposedly happened several days before.

The deputy then let the medics know that the Nightingale helicopter will land at a nearby fire department. But less than 20 minutes after he and other deputies arrived, they already have doubts.

It was January 8, 2018, and snow had been on the ground for several days. “I don’t think he fell from this tree stand. There’s no footsteps,” a deputy says to others who are investigating.

They begin talking with Hadley’s boyfriend, Justin Cox. Unlike Hadley, he tells them Levi had fallen from about halfway up the ladder and that it happened several days before.

“It was before it started snowing hard,” Cox says, trying to explain. And then Cox is unsure about which day Levi had fallen.

Deputies started to compare notes and they doubt the couple’s explanations. By now, medics had already transported Levi to the waiting helicopter.  Levi’s mother asks very few questions.

“Here’s the other thing that gets me,” a deputy says to his colleagues. “(EMS has) already left with the child. She has yet to ask anything about where the child is going, if I can go with them, nothing.”

Inside the house on Yellow Hammer Road — called the “hell house” in court by one of the boy’s relatives — Hadley sticks to her story that Levi had fallen from the tree stand, then had some sort of seizure and hit his head on the wall.

“He hit his head right there,” Hadley said as she showed investigators an indentation on the wall near the front entrance.

Hadley and Cox both entered plea agreements for involuntary manslaughter and child abuse with serious injury. Hadley got 20 years, her boyfriend Cox 10. Cox entered an Alford plea, admitting no guilt but conceding the facts would likely have convicted him had his case gone to trial.

Just before her sentencing, Hadley made a brief statement. “I failed my son in the worst way possible that a mother can fail her child.”

Prosecutors had considered murder charges, but because the couple’s stories changed several times, they decided manslaughter was the stronger case.

“At one point (Hadley) said she was responsible for the death. If we had gone to the jury with a murder charge against Cox, well then the first question is, didn’t somebody else confess?” Edwards said outside the courthouse following Hadley’s sentencing. “What we know doesn’t matter. It’s what we can prove.”

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